The Institute of Medicine’s recently released second report on front of package labeling has caused quite a stir. What’s at stake is a potential dumbing down of nutrition information for consumers in order to counter food manufacturer-induced confusion.
The IOM recommended that the FDA retain the original side or back of package labeling in its current “Nutrition Facts Panel” format – but that the FOP labeling in the future include a 0-3 star or checkpoint system based on the food’s calories, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and sodium content. Unfortunately, no fiber.
Will it work? Non-industry FOP guidelines are certainly a good idea, especially given the free reign with which manufacturers have had to utterly confuse consumers using their own company and organization specific check marks and labeling systems.
The implementation of FOP rules however, will continue to involve a messy showdown between industry and government. The problem at stake, as noted Food Politics guru Marion Nestle astutely points out, “FOP guidelines are a tool for selling, not buying.”
At the most basic level, consumers need info about what’s in their food – but determining who dictates that info and how it is delivered is a much more complicated matter.