Big Y Gets Bigger, Drops Katz’s NuVAL System

wilforkWestern Massachusetts based Big Y Supermarkets is celebrating its 80th anniversary. Still a family owned business by the founding D’Amour family, the company has thirteen supermarkets in Connecticut and has just purchased eight stores in the Eastern Massachusetts market. The new stores were available to Big Y as the result of a spinoff of some Hannaford Supermarkets after that chains purchase by Stop and Shop, bringing Big Y to 69 stores in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Big Y heavily promotes its use of locally sourced foods, in-store bakery and its own private brands and until this Spring, for spearheading the use of NuVAL, a nutritional rating system. The system was developed by “healthy eating” advocate and New Haven Register columnist Dr. David Katz.

David KatzThe company adopted the NUVAL system six years ago, which created a shortcut for consumers to evaluate the nutrition and health component of food sold at Big Y.

Business New Haven, recognizing Katz’s nutrition and health advocacy efforts, declared Katz a Healthcare Hero in 2010.

Published reports have Big Y saying they dropped the NUVAL system because it was “outdated” and that consumers were more savvy about their food choices today. Regardless, Katz found himself accused of a conflict of interest as he wrote a column criticizing Big Y this summer for their promotion of a giant pizza and sandwich. The food promotion featured Vince Wilfork, a tackle for ten years with the New England Patriots, as he joined the ranks of very large NFL players that regularly promote what many see as unhealthy snacks and foods.Katz decided he needed to throw a yellow penalty flag when he wrote in the Huffington Post and the New Haven Register that Wilfork was “severely obese,” and that he was “a ticking bomb.” Katz then took the criticism a little further, questioning Wilfork’s parenting as his son was also featured in the promotion.

Katz wrote of the food that it was “carnage in the service of carnivorous palates.”

What Katz did not include in his column was that he had a prior relationship with Big Y and that they had dropped his NUVAL system a few months prior to his column.

Katz told the Yale Daily News, which wrote about this lack of transparency, that he had no current financial interest in the NuVAL system, but was paid for his contribution in developing it.

In yet another column in the Huffington Post, Katz went on what could be described as a diatribe against the Yale Daily News for not covering his positive accomplishments. The paper had also previously reported that Katz used his Huffington Post column to review a book he had written under a pseudonym, and that the column was eventually removed by the website for violating its posting criteria.