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Selecting healthy foods made easier with the ONQI

Beginning in the summer of 2008 foods will contain a rating of their overall nutritional quality using a ranking score of their "Overall Nutritional Quality Index, or ONQI." The rankingwas developed by a team of leading North American research scientists through the Yale University - Griffen Hospital Prevention Research Center, and a nationally recognized authority in nutrition and chronic disease prevention. The project was fully supported independent of all commercial interests by the Center for Disease Control.

According to the ONQI
website, the index is an algorithm designed to generate a single, summative score for the “overall nutritional quality” of a food based on its micronutrient and macronutrient composition and several other of its nutritional properties such a fiber and caloric (energy) content. The ONQI is further designed to stratify foods into a rank order of relative nutritiousness both universally (i.e., across all food categories) and within specific food categories (e.g.: breads, cereals, frozen desserts, etc.), while avoiding the characterization of any food as “good” or “bad” in absolute terms.

The ONQI enables the “average shopper” to choose foods on the basis of overall nutritional quality with the ease and fidelity of top nutrition experts. It is designed to have applications at point of purchase in retail supermarkets, on food packaging, in restaurants, in print materials (e.g., books, periodicals), and on-line.

The ONQI scores range from 1 to 100. As expected most vegetables and fruits ranks at the high end of the list with fresh strawberries, oranges, broccoli, and spinach all getting a score of 100 and many "snack foods" receiving a low score with regular soda and taffy scoring a 1.

Once out and in general use this will be the easiest method for the public to use to find foods of healthy value. Time will tell whether its inclusion will cause the American public to change their overall eating patterns.

Written by Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D. Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.