New Tools to Empower the Healthy Consumer: Part INovember 15, 2014
Food Scores is a brand-new tool developed by the Environmental Working Group that can help consumers understand the health value of the foods they buy—not just basic nutritional information like calories or grams of fiber, but also how heavily processed an item is and what additives it contains. Food Scores is the most comprehensive online food database yet; it brings together information on over 80,000 packaged products sold in grocery stores across the United States. Each food is assigned a score from 1 (healthiest) to 10 (least healthy) based on sub-scores across three categories: nutrition, ingredients, and processing. The database is available online at www.ewg.org/foodscores and as a mobile app.
This innovation could have significance for the nation’s food climate as a whole, not just for individuals who are motivated to stay informed about food choices. Shedding light on what our food really contains has the potential to make meaningful change. When the Environmental Working Group made a similar database for cosmetics and skin-care products in 2004 (Skin Deep), leaders in the cosmetics industry found that consumers were thinking more critically about the chemicals in their makeup, sunscreen, and hair-care products. Similarly, consumer awareness about the chemical additives in our food has the potential to change the conversation about processed and packaged foods, and empower consumers to buy fewer unhealthy food products. It could also impact food purchases in the Federal food assistance programs including WIC and SNAP. For precisely these reasons, the food industry is already opposing the new tool. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, an industry representative, has called the rating system “void of scientific rigor and objectivity.” It appears that the food industry believes, just as nutrition advocates do, that the informed consumer will choose to buy less processed foods with fewer processed ingredients and added chemicals.
Strom, Stephanie. “Food Scores, a New Web Service, Ranks Grocery Items on Ingredients and Nutrition.” The New York Times 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.
Environmental Working Group. EWG’s Food Scores. Environmental Working Group, 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.
Environmental Working Group. EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Environmental Working Group, 2007. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.
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