BOX 6-1Case Study—Illustrative Comparison of Cereal and Dairy Products Using Existing System Criteria

The committee compared selected cereal and dairy products with the criteria from the threshold- and algorithm-based systems shown in Table 6-3 to the best of its ability. Information for the products is in Appendix C. The following illustrates the variability among systems. Note that these estimates are for illustrative purposes only.

Of note within the six cereal products evaluated:

  • Only non-instant and instant oatmeal met the criteria for all threshold systems;
  • Six cereal products evaluated met the threshold criteria for Heart Check and Smart Choices;
  • Four met criteria for Smart Spot and Health Check;
  • Three met criteria for Sensible Solutions and Healthy Ideas;
  • Two met criteria for Choices; and
  • Instant oatmeal received 3 Guiding Stars and was scored 87 by NRFIa and 39 by NuVal, compared with non-instant oatmeal with 2 Guiding Stars and a score of 22 by NRFI and 57 by NuVal, and a toasted oat cereal with 2 Guiding Stars and a score of 84 by NRFI and 37 by NuVal.

Of note within the eight dairy products evaluated:

  • Only fat free milk and fat free plain yogurt passed all criteria from each FOP system; 1% fat milk passed criteria for some programs, but failed for at least 3 programs due to saturated fat content.
  • Reduced-fat cheddar cheese and part-skim mozzarella met only the criteria for Choices and Health Check, and did not earn a star rating.
  • Fat free milk, 1% fat milk, and fat free plain yogurt received 3 Guiding Stars; fat free milk was scored 57 by NRFI and 91 by NuVal; 1% fat milk was scored 31 by NRFI and 81 by NuVal; and fat free plain yogurt was scored 43 by NRFI and 96 by NuVal.

When comparing across product categories by NRFI scores, fat free milk (57) and fat free plain yogurt (43) scored lower than the toasted oat cereal (84) and instant oatmeal (87) and had scores comparable to crisped rice cereal (50), sweetened toasted oat cereal (49), and apple cinnamon cereal bar (47). It is difficult to interpret what these scores may mean. At face value they seem to imply that the nutritional value of fat free milk and fat free plain yogurt is lower than that of some cereals and comparable to others. It may also reflect that the algorithm is not food-category specific or might be an artifact of the assumptions made when hand calculating the estimates.

The NuVal scores for fat free milk (91), 1% fat milk (81), and fat free plain yogurt (96) were higher than the scores for all the cereal products. This may in part reflect the use of categorical adjustors for dairy used in this algorithm (Katz et al., 2009).


All NRFI scores are in raw format and have not been transformed.

From: 6, Scientific Basis of Front-of-Package Systems

Cover of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols
Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols; Wartella EA, Lichtenstein AH, Boon CS, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010.
Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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