Consumer group asks FDA to halt ‘misleading’ nutrition ratings in grocery stores based on ‘secretive’ NuVal scoring system – National Consumers League

May 10, 2012

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323,

Washington, DC— The nation’s oldest consumer group today filed a formal complaint with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about a nutritional scoring system – used in 1,600 stores nationwide – that gives Doritos Tortilla Chips and Ghirardelli “Carmel Turtle Chocolate Brownie Mix” higher nutritional ratings than canned peaches or mandarin oranges.

“The NuVal rating system is fatally flawed and should be discarded,” said National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Its algorithmic formula – which is not transparent to consumers or the scientific community – results in snack chips, soft drinks, and desserts being given as high or higher nutritional scores than some canned fruits and vegetables. NuVal’s so-called nutritional ratings are a travesty that confuse, rather than enlighten, consumers. We need the FDA to step in and set industry-wide standards. Moreover, the FDA should not allow NuVal or any other flawed nutritional rating system to further confuse consumers who are trying to make healthy decisions for their families.”

The FDA wrote the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute in 2011 setting conditions for use of the trade associations’ “Facts up Front” labeling program. FDA, however, has not taken any public action in regards to NuVal, nor has it published any standard criteria for nutritional rating systems, resulting in a “Wild West” atmosphere that confuses consumers.

NCL’s letter to the FDA cites a myriad of mind-boggling NuVal scores; the higher the score, the more “nutritious” the product – according to NuVal:

  • Tostitos Light Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips made with Olestra (28)
  • Baked Lays Originals Potato Crisps (25)
  • Ghirardelli Caramel Turtle Chocolate Brownie Mix (22)
  • Raley’s Cut Green beans (22)
  • Chug Milk Shake Vanilla (21)
  • Doritos Tortilla Chips (20)
  • Diet Coke (15)
  • Edwards Singles Hot Fudge Brownie with Creamy Ice Cream (13)
  • Cracker Jack caramel coated popcorn (12)
  • Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies (10)
  • Raley’s Diced Pears in Light Syrup (10)
  • Dole Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup (7)
  • S&W Yellow Cling Peach Chunks in Light Syrup (7)

NCL’s concern is magnified by the fact that the NuVal system is in widespread use. “These misleading ratings in stores nationwide call out for a response from federal regulators. We have to prevent systems like NuVal from spreading misleading nutritional information to consumers. If we don’t, we’re letting down the very people who need us most for nutritional advice: the parents, the seniors and the average consumers trying to get the most nutritional value for their dollar,” said Greenberg.

Read NCL’s letter to FDA, including examples of NuVal scores here.


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