Sunday, May. 02, 2010

Guiding Stars

What It Is: A store-based nutrition-profiling system developed by East Coast retailer Hannaford Brothers. Foods are given up to three stars (one is good; three is best), based on a standard formula: products gain star-value for having vitamins, minerals and whole grains, and get docked for saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and salt.

Pros: It goes beyond FDA-approved labels such as "low fat" or "good source of vitamins." Foods are compared per 100 calories, not per serving; food researchers say the "nutrition content per calorie" metric is a more effective way to assess the quality of foods. And since it's a grocery store based system, consumers can use it to compare products all over the supermarket.

Cons: Does not have strong, independent research to back up its usefulness to consumers. Not all products in a supermarket are rated, and only a small number of grocery store chains have signed up so far.