Bring Food Labeling into the 21st Century!
Food labels play an important role in the battle against obesity and diet-related disease, which are responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year.
Nutrition labeling requirements for foods need a major overhaul. Congress and the FDA should update the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) regulations by:
- Requiring more prominent labeling of calories per serving on the Nutrition Facts label,
- Requiring companies to base nutrition information on realistic serving sizes,
- Adding a recommended daily limit on added sugar consumption to the Nutrition Facts label,
- Making the Nutrition Facts label easier to understand, and
- Standardizing nutritional health symbols that appear on the fronts of food packages.
For more information, read CSPI’s report, Food Labeling Chaos.
The FDA and Congress should also close loopholes that permit companies to make misleading health-related claims for food products. The FDA and Congress should:
- Require that all health-related claims be reviewed by the FDA prior to marketing to ensure they are scientifically valid,
- Prohibit claims that a food is low in trans fats, unless the food is also low in saturated fat and cholesterol,
- Require that claims for so-called “Natural” foods meet specific standards, and
- Require that claims such as “made with whole wheat,” be permitted only if the product discloses the amount of whole wheat (as percentage of total grain).
In addition, the FDA and Congress should require the content and format of ingredient listings to be improved:
- Caffeine content per serving should be disclosed,
- The percentages of key ingredients should be listed,
- Ingredients should be listed in an easy-to-read font and format. Below is the current label (left) and CSPI's proposed improved label (right).
Modernization of nutrition and health information on food labels is an essential weapon in the fight against obesity and diet-related diseases. Cost-benefit analyses of previous food labeling reforms show that the costs of changing food labels is greatly outweighed by the health benefits of providing consumers with better label information. The time for action is now!