Do we really need front-of-package nutrition labels?
I confess: I'm one of those obnoxious people who creates a menu for the entire week's meals, then shops just for what's on the list. My trips to the grocery store are less about shopping than about simply buying.
So maybe I'm not the target audience for the front-of-package nutrition labels that so many experts seem to think are necessary to steer consumers toward healthful food choices.
As I write in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, one major label system, Smart Choices, went belly up last week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave notice that it was keeping an eye out for misleading or deceptive messages the program might send to consumers. Smart Choices chose to cease operations and pledged to work with the FDA to develop a universal nutrition labeling system.
Such a system would have the benefit of reducing the mind-numbing clutter of competing health-claim logos currently on supermarket shelves. Having not paid much attention to those logos before, I was shocked when I spent a few hours in the store researching my column to find how many are out there and how difficult it is to make sense of them all.
My response -- and the one experts fear many consumers may have -- is to tune them all out. And while I may be well equipped and willing to take the time to make sense of Nutrition Facts panels and ingredient lists on the back or sides of food packages, many consumers are less equipped and less inclined to bother. This may leave them to make poor choices in the packaged-food aisles.
What do you think of the ratings, codes and logos popping up on food packages? Do you pay attention to them and use them to guide your purchases? Do they make sense to you? Or do you tend to ignore them altogether?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
October 27, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Nutrition and Fitness
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