Hey FDA, take a look at what your British counterpart (Food Standards Agency) did last week. They issued guidelines for front-of-pack labeling of food items. No crazy inventions or wild west labeling decisions that have been confusing American consumers for the last 5 years. Instead, a well though out program indicating the good AND the bad in each packaged product.
Studies, not sponsored by the food industry, have shown that the traffic light system that has been chosen in the UK is the most helpful to consumers in guiding healthier choices.
What you need to know:
Nutrition labels on the side or back of a product package are too confusing. So a more succinct front of pack (FOP) label is sometimes used. It includes just a few key nutrients such as calories, saturated fats, sugar, and sodium. Color coding is used to indicate if there’s too much of something. In the example below – the sugar count is fine, but the other “negative” nutrients are marked in red. Yellow is used in cases where the nutrient level is in the middle ground.
Obviously an all green product is the best bet. And something all red is not. In cases where some is red, and some green, the decision is not as simple.
What do we have in the US?
A weak FDA, with very limited political power to go up against the mighty food industry. As a result, not only has the FDA not issued guidance to the industry, it has let industry dictate what the front of pack label would look like:
As a result, the information consumers so need is obfuscated:
- No color coding
- The addition of 2 more numbers (usually values of good nutrients), to encourage users to buy the product
What to do at the supermarket:
Since you are reading Fooducate, you know that the best solution is to read the entire nutrition label AND the ingredient list. Only together will you see the true picture behind a product.