Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Column Archive |  On Twitter: J Huget and MisFits  |  Fitness & Nutrition News  |  RSS Feeds RSS Feed

What front-of-package food labels should say

The world of nutrition and food policy sometimes seems like a big messy jumble of competing interests, contradictory science and warring fiefdoms. So it's awfully refreshing to see someone cut through the clutter and deliver a cogent and thoughtful message about how to help Americans eat more healthfully. That's what happened Wednesday morning when the Institute of Medicine issued its carefully considered report about front-of-package food labeling systems.

The IOM, which advises the federal government and other entities on health-related issues, took on the gargantuan task of reviewing all the disparate food-labeling systems proffered by various packaged-food manufacturers, grocery chains and other interested parties and determining, point by point, how well they work. Delivering health and nutrition messages to American consumers can be a daunting task, and the more players that have jumped on the food-labeling bandwagon, the more confusing it's become.

Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop! popcorn has a front-label that advertises that it is 94 percent fat-free. (Photo: ConAgra Foods)

After also reviewing a wealth of science, the IOM committee determined which key nutrients should be included in the limited space of a front-of-package label, and which should not. They ended up choosing four: information about calories, sodium, saturated fat and trans fat content. These four, the committee agreed, are most directly related to the nation's major health woes -- obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers -- and are most commonly over-consumed. Other nutrients, such as fiber and added sugars, either lack enough science for the government to issue edicts as to their consumption or can probably be better addressed through other means, such as the Nutrition Facts panel or education efforts, the committee decided.

The committee's next task is to figure out what kind of system would work best and whether it makes sense for a single system to be administered by the FDA. Today's report was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | October 13, 2010; 12:17 PM ET
Categories:  Health Policy, Nutrition and Fitness, Obesity  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Hispanics live longest
Next: Bone drugs may cause fractures, FDA warns

No comments have been posted to this entry.

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company