Whole Foods' Blogger Responds to My Comment on Their "Nutrient-Density" Scoring System

The Whole Foods Market Blogs are written by Whole Foods Market employees. One of them, Lauren of Dedham, MA, posted on her blog about a scoring system which awards scores to foods based on specific factors. This system, called ANDI, was developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who calls himself a "nutritarian" and runs multiple websites, one of which is "Eat Right America". You can read more about Dr. Furhman here, and more about the ANDI system here. You can read Lauren's blog post about the ANDI system here.

I left a comment on the blog post. This was my comment:

My question about the ANDI scoring system is regarding a potential contradiction in values. The system might be rendered ineffective in foods such as walnuts, fish and olives, where the calories from fat can bring the ANDI score down, because the vitamins are fat-soluble, requiring that the fat which nature has built-in to those foods in order to carry the nutrients into the human bloodstream. What do you think? Maybe I am missing something.

The comment was approved and is visible on the blog post, in the comments section.

Lauren replied to me personally in an email, stating the following:


Hi Nick,
Thanks for reading my blog and submitting a comment.
The intention of our “Health Starts Here” program is not to promote a 100 percent plant based, or vegan, diet. We are emphasizing the increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans -- no matter what type of diet one eats.
Our "Health Starts Here" Program has been created to helps support our newest Core Value, "Promoting the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education." We relied heavily on the expertise and extensive backgrounds of our Scientific and Medical Advisory Board when creating the parameters for the healthy eating program. Posting ANDI scores on some products in our stores will help shoppers select the most nutrient dense options if they are interested in doing so. That being said, we recognize that our stakeholders have diverse dietary preferences and realize that shoppers will continue to purchase foods across the dietary spectrum. Our goal is to call out nutrient dense choices for those customers interested in choosing them.
We appreciate your feedback and acknowledge there are many paths to health. At the end of the day, Whole Foods Market will still be a grocery store that offers a wide variety of products for our customers to purchase. Thanks again for reaching out to us with your concerns.
Lauren Klatsky
Marketing Team Leader Dedham

Although I never mentioned that the program seems to "promote a 100 percent plant based, or vegan, diet", it is implied in her response that I did.

I would be interested to see the scoring system labels in effect to see if those actual foods she mentions - "fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans" - are the ones being marketed with high ANDI scores in the Whole Foods Market stores.

It is interesting that as the traditional diets (such as Weston A. Price/ Nourishing Traditions, Paleolithic, and similar diets) become increasingly popular, frequently using terms such as "nutrient dense" and "nourished", this particular move (and the activity surrounding it) is made in the U.S.'s leading natural & organic supermarket - and it uses those same terms. However, the terms have quite different meanings between the traditional diet advocates and the ANDI system advocates.

Lauren concludes with her (and someone else's, apparently, since she uses the word "we") appreciation of my feedback, and the reassurance that relativism makes it all okay - "There are many paths to [fill in the blank here]"; She fills in the blank with the word "health".

Finally, though my comment expressed no concern on the matter, she reassures me that "at the end of the day", WFM will continue to "be a grocery store that offers a wide variety of products".

I should also mention that, when leaving my comment, I was careful to spell my name correctly. But, in her response, Lauren called me "Nick". This made me laugh, so at least I got something positive out of it!

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