Policy Research for Front of Package Nutrition Labeling: Developing and Testing a Summary System Algorithm. 3.1.1 Option 1 - Overall Score Based on Nutrient Density


Nutrient density is typically defined as the nutrient amount per kcal (or some multiple of kcal, for example, 100 kcal). A nutrient density score is a summation of nutrient values per kcal amount in relation to the daily recommended intake value of each nutrient. Some have suggested expressing nutrient density-based algorithms on a weight basis (i.e., per 100 gram or per serving size) as an alternative to per kcal amount (Drewnowski, Maillot, & Darmon, 2009). Various nutrients can be included that characterize the overall nutritional quality of a food. An advantage of this type of system over a threshold-type system is that it does not assign arbitrary thresholds to determine a score.

Using an overall score of nutrient density, potential modifications to test included the following:

  1. unit basis (e.g., per 100 kcal or per RACC serving)
  2. nutrients (e.g., include a fat-quality indicator such as saturated fat as a percentage of total fat, with or without added sugars)
  3. weighting (e.g., assigning more weight to negative nutrients as positive nutrients)
  4. bioavailability (e.g., protein quality score, adjustment for nonheme iron that is less well absorbed)
  5. overall score or food category-specific (e.g., categorize final score into two [healthy or not] or three [low, medium, high] categories using one set of cutoffs or food category-specific cutoffs)