Guiding Stars Algorithm Goes Public

November 08, 2011

Front of Package labeling is a hot topic. Guiding Stars recently released their algorithm, a step in the right direction.

The symbol can be found in over 1,600 supermarkets, but before about a week ago consumers, manufacturers, and retailers weren’t privy to the actual details of the Guiding Stars rating system. In an announcement just last week, Guiding Stars revealed the online publication of its algorithm in the November/December issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. The Lempert Report agrees with the company that the publication of the algorithm will allow the public to fully understand the basis for the nutritional ratings of foods. It’s an absolute step in the right direction, and about time as we've been urging companies from the start to be transparent in their rating systems.

Front of Package (FOP) labeling is a hot topic these days, as independent companies, supermarkets and the government all want a piece of the action. The Guiding Stars system credits all edible foods based on the presence of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and whole grains, and debits for the presence of trans fat, saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars and added sodium. Foods are then awarded zero, one, two or three stars - one star means good nutritional value; two stars, better nutritional value; and three stars, the best nutritional value.

In a press release, Leslie Fischer, PhD of the University of North Carolina and a member of the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel, commented, “Guiding Stars is a pioneer in nutrition guidance, and with the proliferation of on-package and on-shelf food labeling programs, we want to be transparent about the algorithm that underlies this system… Even a well-informed consumer can have a difficult time identifying nutritious foods and the publication of the algorithm makes the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program more transparent and accessible to the public.”

The Guiding Stars algorithm considers the balance of key nutrients to encourage and nutrients to limit. Fewer than 25% of all food and beverage grocery items meet the criteria to receive a rating of one or more stars. While many nutrition experts encourage consumers to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, there are also categories within the center of the store that offer starred choices. Guiding Stars highlights the more nutritious choices for consumers at-a-glance, and serves to reduce confusion as shoppers navigate the store.

We all win when both the food industry and consumers understand what’s behind FOP labeling schemes. It seems it’s time for NuVal to do the same and release its algorithm to the public.