USDA Draws Praise From Consumer Advocates

11:28AM Nov 02, 2012
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The United States' oldest consumer advocacy organization, The National Consumers League (NCL) praised USDA this morning for denying efforts by NuVal Llc. to place its health rating system on meat products. NuVal is a nutrition rating system based on a proprietary algorithm that rates the 'healthiness' of U.S. food products on a 100 point scale. The rating system is currently in place in 1,600 grocery stores in 31 states.

"It's a wild west out there currently," said Sally Greenberg, NCL's Executive Director. "There are many competing rating systems, a state of play that can leave consumers feeling even more confused than they were in the first place. It is important that the federal government step up and develop a consistent system of front-of-package labeling."

NuVal's rating system has been called into question. NCL has called the rating system 'inconsistent and illogical'. Case in point -- Ghirardelli Caramel Turtle Chocolate Brownie Mix scores a 22 rating while Dole Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup scores only a 7. The consumer advocates are hoping the FDA will follow USDA's lead in minimizing labeling confusion.

"We applaud USDA for taking a leadership role on labeling," said Greenberg. "We would urge FDA, which has jurisdiction over around 80 percent of food products in this country, to follow the lead of its sister agency. If it's not good enough for USDA, it shouldn't be good enough for FDA," said Greenberg. "Consumers must have access to an objective, government-run front-of-package labeling scheme to get the clear and consistent information they need to make healthy dietary choices for their families."

Labeling of food products will be put to the test in California on election day this year as voters in that state will decide whether or not to require labels on GMO products with Proposition 37 (read more).