Guiding Stars Modifies Algorithm

Nutrition guidance program Guiding Stars has updated its algorithm – the formula it uses to assign stars to thousands of foods – to incorporate anticipated changes to the Nutrition Facts label; align with updated recommended daily values (DV) for vitamins, minerals, sodium and fiber; and reflect consensus of nutrition science regarding omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, EPA and artificial colors.

The program relies on the knowledge of its scientific advisory panel to stay abreast of current nutrition science. After a thorough review of mounting evidence of the anti-inflammatory and disease-preventing effects of omega-3 fatty acids, the panel recommended that the algorithm be updated to credit foods more broadly for the presence of total omega-3 fatty acids, including a bonus point for DHA and EPA. Additionally, in response to a growing body of evidence showing that artificial colors have adverse health effects and can easily be avoided by using natural coloring agents such as beet extract, foods containing artificial colors will lose one star value.

Further, an update in requirements for the Nutrition Facts label, set to come into effect in January 2020, will require manufacturers to list added sugars separately from total sugar, and will change the required vitamin and mineral listing on the label: vitamins A and C will no longer be required, while vitamin D and potassium will be. As well as the label changes the Food and Drug Administration has updated DV for sodium, fiber, and most vitamins and minerals. Accordingly, Guiding Stars, aided by panel, has updated the program algorithm to more closely align with the new label requirements and DV updates.

As a result of these changes, the Guiding Stars leadership team anticipates that more than 3,000 products and recipes will receive new star values, including an estimated 1,400 items that will add stars and more than 1,600 items that will drop a star.

“Guiding Stars is a dynamic system that is continually reviewed and updated to evolve along with emerging nutrition scientific evidence,” said Leslie Fischer, PhD, MPH, RD, a member of the scientific advisory panel. “Although the recent revisions to the algorithm have a large impact on the overall product ratings, they are critical to maintain the integrity and relevance of the program and to continue to inform consumers of their best food choices.”

“For more than 10 years, Guiding Stars has helped people make better choices for themselves and their family by guiding them to the most nutritious choices at their grocery store, in their cafeteria or by providing delicious recipes to cook at home,” added Jim McBride, director of the Portland, Maine-based Guiding Stars Licensing Co.“ I am pleased that we have updated the algorithm to align with the growing scientific evidence for the benefits of certain fats as well as the detriments of artificial colors to our health.”

Launched in 2006 and based on a patented, transparent algorithm that objectively evaluates the nutritional quality of foods, Guiding Stars assigns one star for good, two for better and three stars for foods with the best nutritional value. The algorithm and ratings criteria are publicly available and accessible on the organization’s website.

A recent study found that the introduction of Guiding Stars in supermarkets has spurred customers to make healthier food choices, as well as boosting sales and revenue at retailers that offer the program.  

Guiding Stars is in more than 1,200 supermarkets in the United States, including all Hannaford and Food Lion locations. In Canada, Guiding Stars is offered exclusively through Loblaw Cos. Ltd. in more than 900 Loblaws and affiliated banner stores across the country. The program is also available at public school, college, corporate and hospital dining facilities and is accessible through the Shopper mobile app for iOS devices.