Redoing food labels


Never in my life did I think I would agree with anything people at the Center for Science in the Public Interest proposed – until possibly now. The group, which has a long history of sparking controversy and reporting unbalanced findings, announced in December a series of suggested changes intended to overhaul of the nutrition facts label found on packaged foods.


CSPI officials, believe the time has come for the label to be more user friendly and easier to read, all of which they say would cut down on the confusion and misleading statements they feel adorn some labels. Top among their suggestions is to enlarge and make more prominent serving size and calorie information, suggesting it be listed at the very top of the label.


The group also wants to see the ingredient list a bit easier to understand and has suggested ingredients listed on the label be separated so that they read more clearly. Allergens, they also feel, should be listed separately from the main ingredient list and possibly highlighted in red. CSPI would also like to see listed in red and the word “high” used if a product contains more than 20% of the daily recommendation for fats, sugars, sodium or cholesterol. In addition, they would like to see the percentage of whole grains in the product prominently displayed as well as the caffeine content and for the label to clearly spell out which sugars are added to the product compared to those that occur naturally.


While some of the consumer feedback has labeled the effort “overkill” and questions the focus on calories given that most people don’t count calories let alone understand how many they need, surprisingly, more people seem to think it is good idea. They say their time reading packages in the supermarket will be cut in half and ingredients on labels will be much easier to evaluate. But perhaps more importantly, proponents believe once consumers can more easily read what is in the products they buy it will pressure packaged goods companies to make healthier products. As someone who finds packaging print getting smaller and smaller I am all for any revamping of the nutrition label that may help me see the wording better. As for it ultimately pushing CPG companies to make ingredient changes, I guess time will tell.

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