FoodFacts.com has its own, unique and proprietary Health Score System. When you look up a food in our database, our algorithm goes to work and assigns that food a score based on a number of different considerations, among which are controversial ingredients, fat content and sugar and sodium levels. It’s a quick way to help visitors determine quickly whether or not that specific food is something they want to purchase and consume.
We think grading systems are a great concept and an easy way to encourage consumers to make more nutritionally sound food choices. If every food was required to carry a grade, we’d be pretty naturally drawn to the foods with the higher grades. Our thought process was confirmed today when we read some interesting information about a food grading system that’s been implemented in a hospital cafeteria.
Massachusetts General Hospital implemented a simple, color-coded system for the foods carried in its hospital cafeteria. It appears that this system increased customer’s attention to the healthiness of their food choices, along with encouraging purchases of the most healthy items. In their report in the October issue of Preventive Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators describe customer responses to surveys taken before and after the 2010 implementation of a system using green, yellow or red “traffic light” labels to reflect the nutritional quality of items. Before the system was implemented, 46% of those surveyed indicated that health/nutrition was an important factor when making food selections. After the system was implemented that number increased to 63%. And the percentage of those who stated they looked at a product’s nutritional information prior to purchase doubled from 15% before implementation to 33% after.
FoodFacts.com is happy to report that our Health Food Score is an enormously popular component of our website. Visitors rely on this quick read on where any product stands nutritionally. This assessment of the scoring system used at Massachusetts General Hospital also points to the idea that a grade for food is viewed favorably by consumers. Our own system of rating foods according to a report card with grades ranging from A through F or the system implemented at Massachusetts General which utilizes traffic light symbols (green, yellow and red) are both exceptionally simple for consumers to decipher.
We’ve often thought that the implementation of this type of system on food packaging could really help to raise the nutritional awareness of consumers nationwide. We’re sure that there probably isn’t any food manufacturer anywhere that will willingly place a red light symbol or an F grade right on their packaging. Perhaps it would be better to provide a grade for products rated C or above (yellow light worthy). This might help consumers to gravitate towards products with better nutritional value and AWAY from the products that don’t carry a grade or symbol that helps them easily identify a healthier option. It could also provide some much-needed motivation for manufacturers to focus on offering higher-quality products for purchase. We’d love to see this simple idea that’s already proven effective be brought to the national stage. Everyone would benefit.