NuVal™ is a scoring system that assesses the nutritional value of food products and assigns them a score of 1 to 100. The higher the number, the better the score. The nutritional scoring system derives its ratings from a scientific algorithm called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index™ (ONQI™), which weighs the value of healthy ingredients versus unhealthy ingredients. NuVal's™ scores are placed alongside the price tags of food products throughout various supermarkets and retail stores in the U.S. NuVal™ was developed and implemented without any ties to retailers and manufacturers to ensure the most accurate and unbiased ratings.
In the U.S., NuVal™ scores can be found throughout a growing number of food retailers. The concept is to spare shoppers the chore of having to sift through the dense and often confusing information found labeled on food products; instead, shoppers can simply assess the easy-to-spot NuVal™ score, which is specially designed to invite comparison between the scores of various products. For example, when shopping for milk, a shopper can stand back and survey the score of each different milk product. Perhaps that shopper would be surprised to learn that the milk he or she traditionally purchases has only received a score of 48, whereas another milk is rated a 91.
NuVal™ grew out of a health initiative formed by the U.S. Secretary of Health in 2003. 15 nutrition academics brainstormed ways in which the American population could be aided in curbing the obesity epidemic. Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale Prevention Treatment Center, was on that panel, and he proposed the scoring system that evolved into NuVal™. Dr. Katz eventually became the principal inventor behind the system, overseeing a team of nutrition experts.
NuVal's™ academic team, with support from Griffin Hospital of Derby, Connecticut, came up with a complex scientific algorithm to sift through the nutritional data of practically any food product. Whether it be a piece of fruit or a frozen dinner, ONQI™ is able to tally up a score. ONQI's™ equation pits healthy ingredients—potassium, protein, vitamins—versus unhealthy ingredients—sodium, saturated fat, sugar. The system gives weighted scores to different ingredients, depending on how negative or beneficial they are. The system is purportedly able to compute anywhere between 30 and 50 ingredients for each food product.
The one thing that NuVal™ does not claim to factor in are the levels of toxins and bacteria that foods may contain. The reason for this is that the scoring system can only go off of what's listed on ingredient labels. If no label is available—as with, say, an individual apple—the system goes off of what is nutritionally known about that food. Nutrition labels don't list toxins, as there should be none present. Therefore, NuVal's™ system cannot weigh in on such matters, not even with foods wherein some level of toxin is likely, as with certain kinds of fish that contain mercury.