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Consumer group applauds USDA for rejection of questionable food labeling system

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For release: November 2, 2012
Contact: Carol McKay, (412) 945-3242, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture commending the agency for its decision to deny efforts by NuVal LLC to place its rating system on the label of meat products. “This decision illustrates both the USDA’s leadership in labeling and the problems inherent to the NuVal system,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director.

NuVal is a nutrition rating system, placed in 1,600 grocery stores in 31 states, which rates the “health” of products on a scale of 1 to 100 using a secret algorithm. NCL has raised concerns about the system’s use of the proprietary algorithm, which produces inconsistent and illogical scores. For example, Ghirardelli Caramel Turtle Chocolate Brownie Mix scores a 22 while Dole Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup only scores a 7. NCL has written to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to develop an improved, universal front-of-package labeling scheme that would be more helpful to consumers.

“It’s a wild west out there currently,” said Greenberg. “There are many competing rating systems, a state of play that can leave consumers feeling even more confused than they were in the first place. It is important that the federal government step up and develop a consistent system of front-of-package labeling.”

NCL became aware of USDA’s decision to deny a request to place NuVal scores on the labels of meat products through a Freedom of Information Act request. Documents, including internal USDA emails, revealed that the agency had denied the request.

“We applaud USDA for taking a leadership role on labeling,” said Greenberg. “We would urge FDA, which has jurisdiction over around 80 percent of food products in this country, to follow the lead of their sister agency. If it’s not good enough for USDA, it shouldn’t be good enough for FDA,” said Greenberg. “Consumers must have access to an objective, government-run front-of-package labeling scheme to get the clear and consistent information they need to make healthy dietary choices for their families."

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.