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Will Front-of-Label Nutrition Information Make a Difference?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Those of us that are nutritionally aware have become quite competent at reading the nutrition label as we make purchasing decisions at the supermarket.

Last fall, Coach Dean shared his concerns with the Smart Choices labeling program when Froot Loops was considered a smart choice. The Food and Drug Administration also warned the food industry to standardize the proliferation of symbols and ratings used to highlight nutritional claims on the front of food packages. Last year the F.D.A. shared with manufactures the belief that front-of-pack labeling is a promising way to help consumers make informed food choices. They also shared concerns related to their "research which found that with such labeling, people are less likely to check the Nutrition Facts label on the back or side panel of foods." Because of this, the front-of-package information they seek is more than just a symbol. Because of the risk of decreased use of nutrition information labeling, the F.D.A. is now encouraging manufactures share important nutritional information such as complete calorie per container especially for single serve food and snack items. Coca-Cola Co. began putting calorie counts on the front of most of their drinks but it highlighted a new problem related to calorie reporting and portion sizes. So how would front-of-package labeling relate to portion size nutrition?

Reports over the last week indicate the Food and Drug Administration is pushing manufactures on front-of-label nutrition information once again with some of these questions in mind. Many of the package serving sizes especially for snacks and individual servings is very small as more and more companies jump on the 100-calorie pack marketing bandwagon. In order to help make front-of-package labeling helpful and informative, the F.D.A. is interested in making serving sizes for foods such as breakfast cereals, snacks, and desserts more consistent with how Americans eat and with the way companies are packaging their products.

Many products have a serving size smaller than you would expect. If a single serving microwave soup contains 420 mg of sodium per serving but the complete and intended serving for the entire container provides 680 mg of sodium, the label is not helpful for consumers trying to make a quick but nutrition minded selection. The new push by the F.D.A. would not only push calorie and sodium information in easy to find front-of-package labeling, it would also encourage the labeling be for the intended portion size or in the case of this example the entire 14 oz container instead of an 8 oz serving size.

The F.D.A. will continue to look at the portion size issues while also encouraging voluntary front-of-package posting of key information. It is a careful balancing act since increasing serving size information in an attempt to help consumers get a better picture of what they are actually consuming could also send a message that eating more is acceptable and advised.

What do you think. Would changes in portion sizes related to nutrition information make a difference in how much you consume? Would having some of the information on the front of the package reduce your portion sizes or help you feel more informed? Is this an important area for the F.D.A. to focus in their desire to help consumers make healthier choices?

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Comments

OMG!! About time serving & portion sizes were standardized!! I would probably buy more if they were! As it is, I prefer to cook most things from scratch ... so _I_ can control what's in my food.... plus most recipes serving sizes are already standardized. Report
CD6339031
Standardize the serving sizes. That's the best way to make a consumer more aware of the impact of the products nutrition.

When do we hold consumers responsible for what they consume? If they don't want to check lables or be aware of what labels mean it doesn't matter where the label is located. Report
LIVINGONMYTERMS
You can put the label anywhere on the box and 80% of the population will still ignore it. Anything to spend money. Report
yes, yes, & yes Report
I am at the I measure out every portion it would be nice if it was on front in bold print so y ou don't have to hunt. For someone that cares it will help. I know others it don't matter they eat the whole thing! Report
i don't think it matters where you put the label .either you are going to follow it or you are not. Report
I think that the food companies are being somewhat dishonest if a 14 oz package of soup contains 1.75 servings of soup. Better standardization of the information will make for a more informed consumer. Standardized information on the front of the label is a good idea, but if that is offered "per serving" one still must find out just how big a serving is and decide if that is a "serving" for them. The information should be for a standard amount to really be useful 'at a glance'. Report
Our perceptions of serving sizes are so distorted that most people wouldn't realize how small a real portion size is. It really does pay to read the information that the manufacturers sometimes try to disquise. Report
I think they should pretty much leave it the same. I don't think it really matters where it is as long as it is factual. As far as serving sizes go, I do agree that some are realistically too small, but maybe that is because we are programmed to eat more. We need to be more aware, and re program ourselves.
What I do find silly, is that on popcorn, the nutrition is based on unpopped kernels.. are you kidding.. who eats it unpopped.. why would we care how many calories are in unpopped popcorn?? Report
I don't think WHERE the label is will make that much of difference -- unless, perhaps, it takes a different form. I would suggest keeping the full label in its traditional place but placing a simplified label -- perhaps a version that lists serving size, number of servings per container, calories, fat, carbs, and protein only (i.e. not all the other vitamins/minerals, just those deemed most crucial) -- on the front for simplified side-by-side comparison. That being said, I think labeling assumed-single-serve containers as single servings, making serving sizes more realistic for some foods (though then the issue becomes one of what, exactly, is "realistic"), and further standardizing labels would make a bigger impact. Report
I think that making serving sizes by size of container more visible would make a big change in how I eat. I am much more mindful of servings thses days...But we really need to take the nutrition and serving sizes and make them visible not fine print! Report
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