New FDA Labels To Promote Healthy Food

By: Michele Wolfson

A new report says that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to implement a rating symbol on the front of food products in hopes that it will help multi-tasking shoppers purchase healthy foods. We live in a culture where the American buyer is very busy and few stop to read fine print in the middle of the grocery aisle. The Food and Drug Administration states that they will not be replacing the detailed Nutrition Facts panel that's now on the back or side of food packages. Rather, labels will become clearer so that consumers can compare products and give them a fast way to make healthier choices.

The objective is to make the rating system very simple so that the front paneling of a food product will reveal how healthy it is based on how many calories per serving (with accurate serving sizes), along with stars or some other symbol to show at a glance how the food rates for certain fats, sodium and added sugars. This could be an essential move in reversing the obesity epidemic spreading like wild fire around this country. Typically, when a person purchases something like a can of minestrone soup, they think they are making a health conscience food choice, when in fact these kinds of products are often filled with high amounts of sodium, MSG, and other harmful chemicals.

For the past few decades, the complex black and white labels have offered what's inside each package based on daily percent values for substances like fat, sodium and carbohydrates. American shoppers have criticized the current labeling system, stating that it's confusing and doesn't offer a simple way to make a choice about whether a food product is good for them. This new system will reflect portion sizes from a more realistic perspective.

However, not everyone is on board with this new labeling system. Many food manufactures don't like the idea of ranking one food as less health supportive than a competitor's. The current label is easily recognizable and adaptable to food packages of different sizes because it's simple, said Regina Hildwine, director for science, policy, labeling and standards at the Grocery Manufacturers Association. This is a judgment the industry wants to leave to consumers rather than the government assessing what is healthy or unhealthy. Those who are adversely against changing the labeling system feel that the government and the food industry are too chummy with one another but some food companies fear this will hurt their profits.

The FDA urges that the labeling system will just be revamped instead of completely overhauled into something new. There is a desire for the new label to also include which foods are highly processed, as many ingredients listed on products are long and unpronounceable. In order to fight obesity, awareness is key.

Photo: Bruce A Stockwell

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