Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Front-of-Package Nutrition Labeling — An Abuse of Trust by the Food Industry?

Sample Front-of-Package Label Adhering to the Nutrition Keys System Developed by the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the Food Marketing Institute.

Sample Front-of-Package Label from the Traffic-Light System Used in Britain.


Excerpts from the New England Journal of Medicine 23 June 2011 Perspective

On January 24, 2011, two major food-industry trade associations, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute, announced a new and voluntary nutrition-labeling system that major food and beverage companies would use on the front of packages to “help busy consumers make informed choices.” …
…This program, called Nutrition Keys, follows on the heels of an industry free-for-all in which different companies used different, and in many cases self-serving, symbols to communicate how healthful their products were. An example is the Smart Choices program, whereby industry established nutrition criteria that would qualify products for a special Smart Choices label. This enterprise was met with disbelief when products such as Froot Loops and Cocoa Krispies qualified as Smart Choices,…
…At first glance, the industry action might seem positive — a single standardized system with objective nutrition information might guide better food choices. The industry plans to list the amount and percentage of the recommended daily value (%DV), when available, for calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugars….
…There are, however, major flaws in this approach. First, the timing of this action by the food industry is suspicious at best, and the move is being made in a political context where the industry is pitted against both government and the public health community. …
…Most troubling is the fact that the industry announced its own approach even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA have already commissioned an objective body, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), to convene an expert committee and issue recommendations for front-of-package labeling. The IOM committee is scheduled to release its final report this fall….

Related IOM Links

Includes History of nutrition labeling, Overview of Health and Diet in America, Scientific basis of front-of-package nutritionrating systems, and appendixes

  • Consumer labelling: Food fights (
  • Small step forward in global food labelling (Canadian Medical Association News, June 2011)
    “Global standards for “mandatory nutrition labelling” on the back of food packaging appear to be in the offing but standards for the front of packages appear to be a distant dream.The guidelines will be crafted this summer by the Codex Food Labelling Committee, which is part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, created in 1963 by United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization to develop food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to protect consumer health and ensure fair trade practices with regard to food…….Proponents hope the back-of-package labels — which would articulate general information about such things as fat, protein, fibre, calorie content — will serve as an impetus to all nations to adopt official labelling requirements,  if only because they would soon become a requisite element of international trade…….Although several countries are experimenting with forms of front-of-packaging labelling, such as the United Kingdom, which  introduced a voluntary colour-coded traffic light system in 2007, (, no nation has mandatory regulations.”…
  • U.S. Seeks New Limits on Food Ads for Children (
  • Sunday Comic Strip: Isn’t Food One of the Ingredients? (

June 26, 2011 - Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , ,

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