Policy Research for Front of Package Nutrition Labeling: Developing and Testing a Summary System Algorithm. 2.4.4 Comparison of Specific Nutrient Criteria and Ranking of Foods in Summary Systems


Appendix A contains detailed information on the specific nutrient criteria or algorithms for the 13 summary systems that were reviewed to the extent the information was available from the published literature and the systems' Web sites. A comprehensive analysis would involve rating a large number of foods with each system and comparing the rankings across systems, both across foods and within categories. A comprehensive evaluation of food scores among various systems was beyond the scope of this project; however, some limited comparisons were made, and anomalies among systems are noted. Anomalies among the different systems are more likely to occur with foods that have a mixture of healthy and unhealthy attributes. For example, breakfast cereals may be high in fiber but also high in sugar; peanut butter is high in fat and calories, but the majority of the fat is monounsaturated.

Example of Breakfast Cereals

There are numerous breakfast cereals with varying ingredient and nutrient content on the market. The Smart Choices system received criticism for awarding its icon to sweetened cereals (Neuman, 2009). Smart Choices allows up to 12 g of added sugar per labeled serving (~30 g). However, Guiding Stars does not award stars to any food products with added sugar. Sensible Solution has a generous allotment of added sugars (25% of kcal) for cereals, and the Keyhole has no sugar limit for cereals, but criteria for fiber would preclude some sweetened cereals from obtaining ratings. The Choices Programme has stricter criteria for added sugars in breakfast cereal (<28 g/100 g or ~8 g per 30 g serving), precluding some sweetened cereals from obtaining its rating. The Choices Programme specifies further restrictions in the next 3 years (to 24 g/100 g) and 6 years (20 g/100 g). The staged restrictions are designed to allow manufacturers to gradually reformulate their cereals to decrease the sugar content.

Example of Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is difficult to characterize in terms of the overall nutritional quality because it is very high in fat, which makes it high in calories, and although some of the fat is saturated, most of it is monounsaturated. Based on nutrient values for generic peanut butter in the USDA food composition table, the total and saturated fat would disqualify peanut butter from the AHA Heart Check. Peanut butter would not qualify for the Choices Programme icon because it exceeds the saturated fat criterion of up to 13% of total calories (peanut butter is approximately 16%). However, peanut butter does qualify for the Smart Choices icon because the criterion for saturated fat is 28% of total fat (approximately 21% of the fat calories in peanut butter are from saturated fat). Peanut butter would classify as less healthy using the Ofcom model. With Guiding Stars, peanut butters vary from one to three stars presumably because of the saturated fat and added sugars in some brands.