Friday, January 24, 2014


Consumers are these days a harassed lot as they are bombarded with hundreds of commercials through the electronic media causing considerable confusion in their mind regarding the various claims made on packaged food products. From time to time manufacturers have been trying to boost the sale of their products by printing nutrition ratings on the front of the packet and attract consumers to their portfolio of products. Unfortunately there are a number of players offering rating systems based on different yardsticks. The Gold Star system adopted by an American Supermarket chain is reported to be doing well in educating the consumers and persuading them to go for more healthy products based on the number of stars printed on the label. Here is a take on this consumer friendly development. 

"A nutritional rating system using gold stars affixed to price labels on grocery store shelves appears to have shifted buying habits, potentially providing another tool to educate consumers on how to eat healthier, according to a new study. The independent study examining a proprietary gold star system used in Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets suggested it steered shoppers away from items with no stars toward healthier foods that merited gold stars. "Our results suggest that point-of-sale nutrition information programs may be effective in providing easy-to-find nutrition information that is otherwise nonexistent, difficult to obtain or difficult to understand," the researchers wrote in the study, published last week in the journal Food Policy. It's the most rigorous scientific study focusing on Guiding Stars, which was instituted in 2006 in Hannaford stores and is now licensed for use in more than 1,800 stores in the U.S. and Canada. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the University of Florida focused on the cereal aisle, where it can be challenging to make healthy choices amid conflicting health claims and a multitude of sugary offerings targeting children. They compared data from 134 Hannaford grocery stores in the Northeast against an equal number of similar stores across the country. During the first 20 months of the program, sales of no-star cereals fell in both groups: 13 percent at Hannaford stores and 10 percent at the other stores. Likewise, the shift to healthier cereals was slightly greater at Hannaford stores, compared with the others. The study's authors said they believe the additional shift in sales was due to the influence of Guiding Stars."

It is imperative that a universal health credential assessment system is evolved which can be adopted by many countries grappling with the problem of food safety and quality and consumer education for eating healthy foods. It is conceded that it is a very difficult task considering the multitude of foods marketed world over and evolving a common standard applicable to all of them is fraught with logistical difficulties. Still a beginning has to be made some where and even a rudimentary system that can improve the awareness of consumers about good foods can go a long way in bettering their health. Innovations in rating will come from time to time to improve the efficacy of the rating system. 


No comments: