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Your Label Is On Backwards

November 12, 2010

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Often we are encouraged to check the nutrition label of the products that we consume, but how often does that really happen? Hidden on the back corner, or underneath extraneous packaging folds, it is easy to skip over the part where we find out what is actually going into our bodies. 

A recent New York Times article announced that the manufacturers association is committing to place some nutrient information on the front of the product packaging to better alert consumers. The Institute of Medicine is asking for package-front nutrition labels that would clearly list calories, saturated fat, transfat and sodium—the main nutrients associated with increasing preventable health concerns such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The exact nutrients that will be listed have yet to be confirmed.

Unlike in the UK where a green or red circle signifies a product’s health value, the label will not characterize whether a food item is good or bad, just the overall nutritional values. Instead of interpreting the elements of the product, the front label will be purely informational. The FDA hopes that the industry will create a label that helps consumers, parents and other shoppers to easily identify and chose products that contribute to a healthful diet.

This still means that the general public needs to be educated enough to make healthy decisions, even if the products clearly state what nutrients it contains. Although the labels on the front are a positive step forward towards better nutrition, it seems like only half of a solution. What do you think? Will front labels make a significant difference in what we chose to eat?