IOM: Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels Need New Focus

Calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium should be prominently labeled
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labeling would be most helpful to consumers if it clearly highlighted the information of greatest concern -- calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium -- according to the findings of an Institute of Medicine committee review released Oct. 13.

As part of a larger study, committee chair Ellen Wartella, of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and colleagues reviewed the myriad of FOP nutrition rating systems and symbols developed over the years by food manufacturers, government agencies, and others to allow consumers to quickly compare the nutritional value of foods they select. The more complete Nutrition Facts panel, in which more extensive nutritional information is listed in tabular form, is regulated, but FOP labeling is not.

The committee aimed to define the best way to use the small amount of space allotted to FOP labeling to make the biggest impact on diet-related health problems affecting many Americans, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The committee concluded that the most critical nutritional components to include in FOP nutrition rating systems are calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium and that it is unnecessary to include information on total fat, cholesterol, total carbohydrate, total or added sugars, protein, fiber, or vitamins on this area of a food package.

"Given current public health needs, it was the judgment of this committee that a limited number of nutrition components most closely related to prominent health conditions may have the potential to be of most benefit when reported with an FOP system. Phase II offers an opportunity to explore these conclusions in the context of consumer behavior," the report states.

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