There are many pitfalls for consumers when interpreting nutritional information on the backs of food packets. At the moment we use a traffic light system for foods to avoid, eat in moderation and eat plenty of, but many nutritionists feel this is an over-simplification which leads consumers to make poor choices.

A new system has been developed in the US, the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI). This was devised by a group of nutrition and health experts, led by David Katz, chairman of the Yale Prevention Research Center.

ONQI takes into account a number of factors in assigning a score of one to 100 for each food, including negatives like the amount of saturated fat, sugar and cholesterol in a food, and positives like fibre, nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids and the quality of a food?s proteins.

At the moment in our system the nutritional balance of foods aren?t taken into account. Cheese for example may score a red for its high fat content, causing a consumer to stop buying it even though it is a useful source of minerals such as calcium.

ONQI will make it easier to compare similar foods as well as helping you to make good choices quicker. It will be rolled out in the USA in 2008 by Topco Associates LLC, a grocery distribution and services cooperative owned by a number of independent grocers.

Other bodies with an interest in nutrition and food production are working on similar systems so expect to see something available to UK consumers in the next year.