Processed Foods

Nutrition Facts sampleNutrition labels and symbols would best benefit shoppers if they appeared on the front of food packages and focused on calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium—the top four overconsumed nutrients, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). 

The not-so-fab four are strongly associated with many of America’s health woes, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 

The IOM recognizes that packages have limited space, so its expert committee believes information on cholesterol, fiber, added sugars, vitamins and other nutrients that are listed on Nutrition Facts panels (right) can remain on the back.

While some experts would have liked added sugars to appear on packages’ fronts, the committee decided added and naturally occurring sugars contribute to calorie count, which would be prominently featured. 

“As Americans grapple with increasing rates of serious health problems connected to their diets, it’s important that the nutritional information they receive is clear, consistent and well-grounded in nutrition science,” says committee chair Ellen Wartella, PhD, a professor of communication and psychology at Northwestern University.