The Tufts Food Compass
Nutrient profiling systems (NPS) aim to discriminate the healthfulness of foods for front-of-package labeling, warning labels, taxation, company ratings, and more. However, existing NPS often assess relatively few nutrients and ingredients, use inconsistent criteria across food categories, and have not incorporated the newest science.
To address these gaps, we developed the Food Compass, a comprehensive NPS incorporating an expanded assessment of nutrient and ingredient characteristics, additional food components, and processing parameters in a uniform fashion across food categories to help guide healthy food choices; industry reformulations; environmental, social and corporate governance metrics; and policy actions.
We scored 54 attributes across 9 health-relevant domains: nutrient ratios, vitamins, minerals, food ingredients, additives, processing, specific lipids, fiber and protein, and phytochemicals. Important novel features of Food Compass include:
- Equally considering healthful vs. harmful factors in foods (many existing systems focus on harmful factors);
- Incorporating cutting-edge science on nutrients, food ingredients, processing characteristics, phytochemicals, and additives (existing systems focus largely on just a few nutrients); and
- Objectively scoring all foods, beverages, and even mixed dishes and meals using one consistent score (existing systems subjectively group and score foods differently).
Our findings indicate that the Food Compass is a credible, transparent tool for science-based assessment of the overall healthfulness of diverse foods, snacks, beverages, and mixed dishes. The publicly available scoring algorithm can inform a more nuanced approach to help guide consumer behavior, food policy, scientific research, industry reformulations, and socially focused investment decisions.
To continue to refine, test, and validate the Tufts Food Compass, including for applications in which limited nutrient data are available.
To assess the healthfulness of foods, beverages, and mixed dishes in expanded databases, as well as food choices, such as supermarket baskets, diets, and food company portfolios.
Distinguished Professor, Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Research Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Professor Emeritus, School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University
Senior Scientist, Nutritional Epidemiology Team; Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health
Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Department of Economics, Tufts University
Associate Professor in Human Nutrition, University of Thessaly
Research Fellow, Food Policy, The George Institute for Global Health
Julia Reedy Sharib
Senior Research Coordinator, Mozaffarian Research Team, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Mozaffarian D, El-Abbadi NH, O'Hearn M, Erndt-Marino J, Masters WA, Jacques P, Shi P, Blumberg JB, Micha R. Author Correction: Food Compass is a nutrient profiling system using expanded characteristics for assessing healthfulness of foods. Nat Food. 2022 Aug;3(8):664. doi: 10.1038/s43016-022-00555-2. Erratum for: Nat Food. 2021 Oct;2(10):809-818. PMID: 37118607.
Mozaffarian D, O'Hearn M, El-Abbadi NH, Blumberg JB, Micha R. Reply to: Food Compass novelty and NOVA category assignments. Nat Food. 2022 Aug;3(8):584-585. doi: 10.1038/s43016-022-00557-0. Epub 2022 Aug 11. PMID: 37118593.
O'Hearn M, Erndt-Marino J, Gerber S, Lauren BN, Economos C, Wong JB, Blumberg JB, Mozaffarian D. Validation of Food Compass with a healthy diet, cardiometabolic health, and mortality among U.S. adults, 1999-2018. Nat Commun. 2022 Nov 22;13(1):7066. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-34195-8. PMID: 36414619; PMCID: PMC9681774.
Mozaffarian D, El-Abbadi NH, O'Hearn M, Erndt-Marino J, Masters WA, Jacques P, Shi P, Blumberg JB, Micha R. Food Compass is a nutrient profiling system using expanded characteristics for assessing healthfulness of foods. Nat Food. 2021 Oct;2(10):809-818. doi: 10.1038/s43016-021-00381-y. Epub 2021 Oct 14. Erratum in: Nat Food. 2022 Aug;3(8):664. PMID: 37117986.