Dr. David Katz, one of the principal creators of NuVal’s algorithm, responded to the Natonal Consumer League’s recent call for the nutrition rating system to be abolished.
In an open letter published in the Huffington Post, Katz began by thanking the NCL for “very ably demonstrating exactly how NuVal does just what it was intended to do: tell the surprising truth about the nutritional quality of foods.”
NuVal is currently used in more than 1,600 food stores, as well as schools and other institutions. In its petition to the Food and Drug Administration, NCL complained that NuVal hadn’t made its algorithm public.
Katz’s response: “The fact is, the [Overall Nutritional Quality Index] algorithm is complex. Many people use iPads without reviewing the engineering blueprints; few are qualified to do so. Ditto for GPS systems. The ONQI is much the same. But the algorithm has been described in detail in peer-reviewed publications accessible to all. It has been made available in its entirety to research groups throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.; to federal agencies in the U.S.; to the Institute of Medicine; and to private entities that have requested such access.”
Another of NCL’s complaints detailed the apparent randomness of some scores. The group cited numerous examples, including this one: A national brand of mandarin oranges in light syrup received a NuVal score of 7 while diet cola gets a score of 15.
NCL officials criticized the rigid scoring system for failing to acknowledge that even though the oranges are packed in light syrup, they’re a produce item that is more healthful than a glass of diet soda. Not so, counters Katz: “The truth is, some of what passes as ‘canned fruit’ is really a more concentrated dose of added sugar than many candies. Consumers may not realize that. The NCL clearly doesn't. But NuVal is not fooled by what's on the cover. It ALWAYS reads the fine print. It's always ready to take on the devil in the details, so you don't have to.”
The question comes up again. If NCL was concerned about NuVal, why has it waited so long? NuVal has been around since 2008, and is currently used in more than 1,500 food stores. Katz has posed the query to NCL. Their response will likely decide how far their public campaign goes — should they choose to pursue the matter.