By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA
The next time you head down the food aisle, check out the front food labels.
The front of food labels or front-of-packages (FOP) are misleading and often confusing, leading the consumer to believe that the food they are about to buy is healthy, when in fact it is not.
In a recent post, Healthy Eating? Find Out What Could Be Hiding In Your Foods, I asked the question if we need to be detectives to find out what’s hiding in our foods.
Unless you turn the package over to read the list of ingredients, it’s impossible to tell. The front of the food label is constructed in such a creative way. Words and symbols highlight the product as healthy. It captures your attention and it gives you the impression that the food you are about to buy is good for you, but it is not.
The government crackdowns on misleading food labels
Schneeman writes in the letter to the industry:
“FDA’s research has found that with FOP labeling, people are less likely to check the Nutrition Facts label on the information panel of foods (usually, the back or side of the package). It is thus essential that both the criteria and symbols used in front-of-package and shelf-labeling systems be nutritionally sound, well-designed to help consumers make informed and healthy food choices, and not be false or misleading.”
Accurate food labels are critical
Food labels need to be accurate and are necessary to help consumers make healthy choices. Accurate front food labels can help consumers easily identify which foods are healthy and which ones are not.
“FDA intends to monitor and evaluate the various FOP labeling systems and their effect on consumers’ food choices and perceptions. FDA recommends that manufacturers and distributors of food products that include FOP labeling ensure that the label statements are consistent with FDA laws and regulations” writes Schneeman in her letter to the industry.
The government wants to improve health
The FDA plans to develop a regulation that helps identify nutritional criteria that manufacturers have to meet before putting claims on the front label claiming their product nutritious. The intent of the FDA is “to provide standardized, science-based criteria on which FOP nutrition labeling must be based.”
“We want to work with the food industry – retailers and manufacturers alike – as well as nutrition and design experts and the Institute of Medicine, to develop an optimal, common approach to nutrition-related FOP and shelf labeling that all Americans can trust and use to build better diets and improve their health,” writes Schneeman in her letter.
Take the front food label challenge test
The next time you’re at the supermarket and wandering down the aisles, check out some of the food labels on the front of the package—does it look healthy? Do you want to buy it? Now, turn it over and read the ingredients. You decide.
Stay tuned for more info on this topic.