Nutrition Fiction: Can Label Standardization Make Us Healthier?


In efforts to make nutritional food choices more accessible, supermarket nutrition labels are the target of the Institute of Medicine, a medical watchdog group calling for a standardization system that would promote clearer front-of-package labeling.

Current nutrition rating systems and symbols are already found on the front of a number of packaged foods, and intended to make healthful purchasing decisions easier for shoppers, but the vast array of rating systems—many of which are self-regulated by manufacturers—can lead shoppers to confusion and unhealthy choices.

Similar to the common Energy Star rating for household appliances that helps consumers pick items that use less energy (and save them money), the proposed rating system would include placement of easy-to-recognize check marks or stars on the front of packaging, making the nutritional ratings evident. This program is designed to work in tandem with the standard nutrition label profiles featured on packaged foods.

The label ratings would take into consideration the overall calories of a product, saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugar content. Products that meet the Institute of Medicine's criteria would then receive a check mark for each qualifying category. But, as it stands currently, the system would give both a diet soda and broccoli the same 3-check rating, when the healthier choice would likely not be the soda. Healthy fats found in nuts and certain oils would also not get the healthy rating they deserve because of their fat content.

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Image: infusionsoft

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