GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Shoppers at Meijer supermarkets can now judge the nutritional value of foods and beverages — including fresh beef, pork and chicken — thanks to the launch this week of the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, which quantifies a product's nutritional information into a single score.

Meijer grocery shelves will begin sporting small tags this week that reveal the scientifically calculated nutritional value score for an individual product. NuVal scores will range from 1-100, with 100 being the most nutritious.

Initially, 8,000 products from 15 different food categories will have an assigned NuVal score. The NuVal system was developed by a team of renowned nutritional experts from leading universities and health organizations, and is currently in use by a handful of major grocery chains across the country.

"This simple scoring system provides our customers with the information they need to make well-informed nutritional choices, one food at a time," said Ralph Fischer, group vice-president of foods. "There is so much confusion when it comes to nutrition information, and that's why we felt it was imperative to provide our shoppers with unbiased and simple information to help them make the most informed choices."

The NuVal (Nutritional Value) Scoring System takes into account more than 30 distinct factors and evaluates the dietary importance of each to determine an overall nutritional quality score.

A sampling of scores reveals the wide disparity in the nutritional value of certain products within the same category. In the Seafood category, an Atlantic salmon fillet receives a score of 87, while Chinook salmon receives only a 56. In produce, oranges receive a perfect score of 100, while iceberg lettuce scores 82. In the salty snack category, the highest score received is a 40, and the lowest is a 1.

Doctors and researchers developed the system as a way to address the rise in obesity, diabetes and heart disease, all of which are related to food choices. Furthermore, it seeks to eliminate the consumer confusion over current nutrition information written on packages.

"Our goal was to create an algorithm for assessing the overall nutritional quality of foods that entirely avoids the 'good food/bad food' dichotomy and controversy," said Nancy McDermott, NuVal president.

Scores are calculated through a formula that takes into account a product's numerators (e.g. the presence of fiber, vitamins, calcium, magnesium, et al.) and denominators (saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar and cholesterol.)

Meijer operates 187 supercenters throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky.