Guiding Stars February 2018 Algorithm Update

Graphic featuring the Guiding Stars algorithm changes
Watch the webinar explaining the update:

This webinar was recorded on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 12:00 PM ET.

Rationale for an update to the Guiding Stars algorithm:

Whenever national or international nutrition policy is updated, the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel carefully reviews those recommendations, and the most current scientific evidence, to ascertain whether any revisions should be made to the Guiding Stars algorithm. This procedure was followed when the FDA revised the Daily Values (DV) for vitamins, minerals, sodium and fiber, and released the impending changes to the Nutrition Facts label.

The FDA announced the revision of recommended Daily Values (DV) along with the update of the Nutrition Facts label with a compliance date of January 2020.  In anticipation of this change, and to accommodate manufacturers that have already begun taking steps to update their labels, the Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel began a rigorous review of the most recent scientific evidence to determine if a revision to the algorithm was appropriate.  After careful consideration, the Panel determined that the algorithm should indeed be revised to align with the Nutrition Facts label and DV changes. Moreover, the Panel reviewed the algorithm in totality to determine if other revisions were necessary to stay current with scientific consensus and policies. The Panel decided to give credit more broadly for foods with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (including DHA and EPA), and to penalize foods that contain artificial food colors.

Summary of current science on omega 3 fatty acids and DHA/EPA:

Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids including long-chain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and/or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are now being credited as these nutrients have documented anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting properties. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease deaths and so-called “sudden deaths.”  Studies also suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in treating a variety of other conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, asthma, macular degeneration, and cancer.

Summary of current science on artificial colors and dyes:

A decision was made to debit foods by 1 star rating for the presence of artificial colors as growing scientific evidence is showing that they may cause or exacerbate negative behavioral outcomes such as hyperactivity and inattentiveness in sensitive children. The debit for artificial colors is aligned with emerging nutrition evidence and policy in Europe, and also reflects growing pressure on manufacturers to replace artificial colors with abundantly available and safer natural colors (i.e. root dyes).  The Guiding Stars SAP wants to positively leverage our nutrition guidance program to further encourage companies to remove artificial colors from their food products.

Expected impact of algorithm changes on food products’ Guiding Stars ratings:

Many whole foods and hundreds of packaged foods and recipes will change their star values due to these changes in the algorithm. The breakdown of star rating changes for the combined algorithm revisions is as follows:

  • 1,404 items gain a star which includes:
    • 969 packaged, prepared and single ingredient foods
    • 435 recipes
  • 1,679 items lose a star which includes:
    • 1,191 packaged, prepared and single ingredient foods
    • 488 recipes

In total 364 foods and recipes that did not previously earn a star will now earn one or more stars with the algorithm revision and 730 foods that previously earned one or more stars will no longer earn any stars. Although these changes have a large impact on product ratings they are essential to the integrity and relevance of the program.

Timeline for Guiding Stars algorithm changes:

Changes to the Guiding Stars algorithm were implemented on February 1, 2018 and are effective immediately. Supermarket partners will receive updated ratings information and will process new shelf tags as soon as possible. Recipes appearing on will also reflect star changes immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Other Questions?

For other questions or more information regarding this change to the Guiding Stars algorithm, please contact the GSLC team at