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

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
2/9/2010 3:39 PM   :  111 comments   :  11,238 Views

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

  • 111
    No it won't. People who care about nutrition ALWAYS look at the nutritional labels. It doesn't matter where it is. It's a similar situation with those who do not care about what they eating. They will NEVER look at the labels, whether it's placed on the front of the package or not. Turning a food item around to look at the label does not require a lot of effort. All it takes is for the person to care enough to look at the thing in the first place. - 8/21/2010   10:59:34 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    110
    I've been reading labels for years, but the real thing that got me to pay attention was my dh becoming diabetic, so we buy and eat carefully, whether we like it or not!! People who eat a lifestyle of "winking and smiling" at foods nutrition wise, won't care whether the label is on front or back either. The same thing with restaurants putting nutrition facts on their Menu's, this "winking and smiling" attitude is commonplace and not enough people really will change what they eat until they have bonafide health issues. - 4/27/2010   9:19:52 PM
  • 109
    I would like to see the labels on the front. Im the type of person who will intentionally ignore looking at nutrition facts when I want to eat something that I know is unhealthy. But when I do look and see that it as certain things and ridiculous calories, 9 times out of 10 I won't buy it.

    A better idea is for the companies to start using less healthy ingredients like msg, excess sodium, partially hydrogenated oils, bleach...... If they takes this stuff out of the foods, people will still consume it and the next generation won't even miss it. - 3/17/2010   6:55:36 AM
  • 108
    People really AREN'T that stupid that they can't turn the package around to read the label, IF they want. What a waste of tax money to try to force manufacturing companies to do this. - 3/11/2010   6:51:02 PM
  • SUNNYDAYZ4ME
    107
    I think its a great idea to have the labels on the front...people might think twice about what and how much they are consuming. - 2/22/2010   2:12:13 PM
  • 106
    I would love to see front labeling in large print with serving size. Like, 100 CALORIES PER HALF CUP SERVING. I think people would notice...and think, wow, only a half cup? - 2/22/2010   7:31:21 AM
  • RAVENBLACK1369
    105
    I would love to see front labeling also I would like some sort of standardized color system to help me make choices as a glance. Some things I look at have a green label that says that the product is a healthy choice but some of them I question. I agree that portions on packages need to be changed to better reflect how people really eat. - 2/17/2010   10:31:03 AM
  • 104
    We see what we want to see and we read what we want to read. I don't think it will make any difference, just one more ruling that someone will have to enforce.
    I must be responsible for what I put in my mouth, therefore I choose to read the label-back, front, or side. But please.....make it large enough to read without a telescope and stop playing with all the fractions of a serving! - 2/16/2010   7:38:23 PM
  • 103
    I don't think the front labeling will help. People who already ignore the side, will ignore the front. However, I would like it if they made the information realistic portion wise. - 2/15/2010   2:45:09 AM
  • 102
    I think that if the label was on the front it would help!. I think more people would pay attention to what they were buying and how much they were eating. I do think they should do something about the serving portions though! It can be confusing sometimes! - 2/14/2010   10:17:56 PM
  • 101
    Personally, wish that the label could print nutritional information a bit bigger so it was more readable. I know I am getting older and my eyes aren't perfect, but I really have to work hard to read most of the important nutritional info--and when a store is crowded or the like, I feel a lot of pressure to just get out of everyone's way. I personally don't care where the info is located--but I am guessing that more teens and kids would look at it casually at first, with a front seat location. - 2/14/2010   8:26:46 PM
  • 100
    That might help, but people who are serious about watching what they eat, will read the label where ever it is.
    When I was visiting NY last year, we noticed that the calorie where listed on menus & found out that this is a law. I would like to see that in every state! - 2/14/2010   12:41:11 PM
  • 99
    I don't think front labeling will help. Either you are interested in the calorie/nutrition content and will read it on the back, or you won't read it. As far as portion sizes, one does need to be very careful reading this. Even I sometimes get caught in thinking that what they are stating is for the whole can then catch myself when I realize it is only for 1/2 of it. But I don't know that changing how that is presented would help. I just need to read carefully. - 2/14/2010   12:40:39 PM
  • NPAUL929
    98
    In response to cookiejim, post #95 - I believe they are hoping that with the nutrition information on the front people will not look at the label, especially the list of ingredients. They make a huge statement on what they think the consumer's intelligence is by labeling Fruit Loops as a "Smart Choice". - 2/14/2010   9:42:55 AM
  • 97
    I think what a lot of our prepackaged food labels need is a CAUTION sign saying this package contains X number of servings, not 1 serving. Most labeling is misleading when you believe it is a single serving but there really 2-3 servings in the package. The consumer has to have a calculator to figure out how many calories were actually eaten. My biggest pet peeve is cereal that says a serving is 1/2 cup or 1 cup. Who eats 1 cup when most bowls hold closer to 2 cups? - 2/13/2010   12:25:12 PM
  • 96
    Putting nutrition info on front may be a good idea. I sometimes forget to look at it when in a rush. This may reminds you to consider it first before chosing it. Worth a try. - 2/13/2010   9:38:37 AM
  • 95
    I'm not sure I'm reading this right. Are they suggesting that I don't know enough to turn the product to get the information??? This has hints of government interferece/thinking that will be a pain to the manufacturer and a cary on cost to the consumer. I can get along nicely without grams, there are hundreds of thousands of recipes that don't use them. I just pass the gram things by. I'm confused already why some beauacrat is getting out of htis. Bet yer buns theres some percs going on here. - 2/12/2010   4:50:51 PM
  • MELLABELL1
    94
    Yes i now do read the lables and the more info the better it is . - 2/12/2010   3:25:17 PM
  • 93
    I am slightly tired of having to take out a calculator and measuring cup- even when eating something that is "individually packaged." I am sure that there can be improvements made; however, I am not sure this is the answer. It's just another number that's going to be bent. I don't know- I think you really just have to be knowledgeable. Another label and another number probably won't help. - 2/11/2010   3:20:03 PM
  • SEWSON58
    92
    I do not believe in the federal government controlling our food. Educating ourselves and our children to read and make good choices is up to us. - 2/11/2010   2:33:13 PM
  • 91
    I do think the serving size should reflect the actual size eaten. However, whenever the government gets involved, they mess things up. I'm not sure if the FDA can help. Front labeling is more like false advertising. Always read the full nutritional label. My husband frequently makes that mistake. I've been reading labels longer, so I'm a pro. We have to throw away some of the stuff he brings home because he missed something on the label. It's a learning process, but people who want to get in shape are usually motivated and should follow the advice, "Buyer be ware." Advertisers will always try to make their products out to be better than they are. - 2/11/2010   2:07:09 PM
  • SISTERKATE2
    90
    I check labels, and I always figure at least one more of the recommended servings. For instance, how can 1/2 cup of macarone and cheese fill up a kid who won't eat much else? Another example would be microwave popcorn. I know I can eat double the recommended portion, and sometimes I do! However, for most of Americans, reading labels on food products, especially at the store, will more than likely not happen. It takes time, and I spend a lot of time in the grocery store, looking at fat and sugar content mostly, and fiber too. Be Well. - 2/11/2010   12:58:59 PM
  • 89
    I agree with many of the other comments on here. I guess it doesn't really matter where the information is located on the package. Most of us on SparkPeople are aware of how to figure out portions and nutritional information for one serving size. I myself would like to know more about the other nutritional content, such as Potassium and vitamins and proteins. I used to see Potassium levels on packaging and in the past few years, it's disappeared! Why?! - 2/11/2010   11:54:46 AM
  • 88
    I don't mind when there are two portions in a package ... it's the packages with 1.3 or 2.5 portions that get to me. The other thing I'd like to see is larger print for the nutritional information. My vision is pretty good, but there are times when I've had to drag out the magnifying glass to read the information and add a product to my nutrition tracker. - 2/11/2010   11:25:41 AM
  • 87
    I know many people who don't read the back of the label. They respond to quick blurbs on the front. So if you care about encouraging more people to read nutrition info, then SUPPORT THIS EFFORT. It will also help to improve the quality of the foods that we buy through demand principles. - 2/11/2010   10:39:19 AM
  • 86
    If you care about the nutrition in an item, you will read it no matter where it is on the package. I think that this is just another marketing ploy. Packaging is about selling products. - 2/11/2010   10:24:17 AM
  • 85
    If you're reading the back (or front) of a package...you're not making the best choice. Pick up fresh and frozen foods that do not contain ingredients that need explanation & we'll all be a lot better off for it. - 2/11/2010   8:50:07 AM
  • 84
    I don't think putting the nutrition labels on the front of packages is going to make any difference to anyone. If people want to read the label, they will...no matter where it is on the package. If folks really want to eat healthier, they need to eat as close to all natural as they can; fruits, veggies, etc., foods in their most basic, natural state; not processed and packaged and unfortunately, those types of food don't have any nutritional contents on them. The FDA wants us to believe they are doing everything they can for the consumer to keep them healthy or make healthy choices but basically, moving the label from the back to the front of the package isn't doing anything for anyone. A person pretty much makes up their mind what they are going to buy before they enter the grocery store...hence the grocery list. It has been my experience, from reading nutrition labels, that the smaller the container (like single serving size meals, frozen dinners, etc) the higher the content of preservatives and sodium. Also the pre-made dinners (Chef Boyardee, canned soups, Betty Crocker meals etc) are loaded with preservatives and have enough sodium to "choke a horse". The calorie level may be reasonable or even low, but the sodium levels and preservatives are far more detrimental than calories to a person's cholesterol, blood pressure and overall health. - 2/11/2010   7:04:53 AM
  • 83
    Anyone seriously interested in nutrition should educated themselves about how to read the back label - it's really not that difficult. And hey - if you're eating what's really healthful (whole and close to the source) - there is no nutrition label on fruits, vegetabels, and many whole grains and legumes bought in bulk.... - 2/11/2010   6:34:39 AM
  • 82
    If someone wants to eat healthy, they will check the label regardless if on the front of the package or not. I think that companies should make the choice and the government should stay out of things. Labeling the nutrition doesn't make someone CHOOSE to eat healthy. It is still a choice. - 2/11/2010   5:40:29 AM
  • 81
    Unless a person is committed to eatier healthier, it is doubtful whether it would make a bit of difference on where the label is. They do need to make their facts more clear especially is an item is considered a single serving. It should be labeled as such and not marked as something different. The key is reading very carefully in order not to be confused. - 2/10/2010   10:28:48 PM
  • 1960ANN
    80
    I have found that in some of the healthy drinks out there are very misleading, it will tell you it has two or three servings per container and give you all the basic infor according to the serving size execpt when you get to what is in the vitamins and minerials the numbers are for the whole container and not per serving. So it makes it look like you are getting what you want per serving but your not. - 2/10/2010   10:21:44 PM
  • 79
    I am so cautious of the Nutritional facts today, that I look regardless of where it's located. I do know that many moons ago, I would have never even cared what the nutritional facts said, but now, if I pick up something that does not have NF's on them, I put it back down. - 2/10/2010   10:13:24 PM
  • 78
    I am concerned that we're mainly acting on a "belief" here rather than a science - am curious if anyone has done a study showing that people who read labels either front or back or both do better at achieving and maintaining a healthy weight? My own belief, unbacked by anything but personal experience, is that people who learn to care about nutrition and are taught what to look for will read the labels and those who don't, won't. The easier the labels are to read and map to normal portion sizes, the less frustrating it will be. So if it were me, I'd first study what it takes to help people learn how to evaluate foods, and then I'd move forward with changing labels if labels were shown to make a difference.

    I don't need the government to tell me what portions sizes are good for me. Chances are they'd go with BMI! And that's just plain wrong for many of us. - 2/10/2010   8:26:46 PM
  • OUTLIVING
    77
    I get totally confused trying to multiply out the different nutrient #'s for fats, salt, cholesterol, etc especially when the serving size is not listed as a standard size and includes multiple odd # servings per package, like 3/4 cup servings instead of 1/2 cup for a starch serving, or 120 cals/serv for a piece of bread instead of the standard 80 cals, and there are 3.5 or 9, or 19 servings in the package.... Makes my eyeballs spin.

    I recently saw Kelloggs crackers include 2 different serving sizes side by side, which also was very helpful... they showed 24 crackers 120 cals (standard size serving according to them) and the info for 90 cals, 17 crackers.

    and I like the packages for cereal that includes both dry and prepared according to directions with salt or milk added.

    I think anything to make this easier and clearer is a good thing. - 2/10/2010   8:12:29 PM
  • 76
    That is a big problem, most consumers aren't saavy in regards to portions. I buy and consume Progresso's light soups - I eat an entire can for lunch - but count it in sparkpeople as 2.2 servings - because 1 cup is a serving and the can is 18 oz. Which is over 2 servings. The average person isn't going to look at it that carefully.

    I think a lot needs to be done - People may complain - but like with Progresso - get rid of those extra 2 oz. That way one person can have a double serving or two people can have an accurate serving - those little extras add up over time, especially if people aren't paying attention. The can has the calorie count on the front - either 60 or 80 calories depending upon the variety - but that is if you have one cup. And that is just one product.
    I try to point out to my students to look at the serving size and number of servings to get them a little more aware. - 2/10/2010   6:29:58 PM
  • KARISHMAJHU1
    75
    I agree with the majority that there are people who read labels and people who don't and the positioning of the nutrition info won't really change that.
    The only change I would really get on board with is if they were required to put the number of servings in a package on the front. That would make it really easy to see if one "single-serving" pack was better than another. - 2/10/2010   6:29:35 PM
  • 74
    I don't think it matters where it is. If you want to read the information, you will find it . Some labels are so small and it would be nice for them to be bigger so you could read them better. - 2/10/2010   6:23:55 PM
  • 73
    If what they put on the front of the package is not all of what I want, I will still look at the label information on the side. Especially, sodium info. I do agree that the labeling information should be for the entire package for small items such as soups and snack items. - 2/10/2010   5:54:27 PM
  • K_RENEE
    72
    I agree with many of you that it won't make a large difference. But I should also say that if the labels were changed to be easier to read, more people would probably be inclined to read them. - 2/10/2010   5:46:05 PM
  • 71
    i don't think it would really make a difference for me...i read the nutrition facts already, but i would LOVE to see simpler labels. i don't want to sit and block the aisle while i'm trying to figure out what an ingredient actually IS. - 2/10/2010   5:26:22 PM
  • 70
    Whether or not you eat or buy these foods I think it is a great idea to change the labeling. Would make it easier for many to figure out this nutrition stuff. May even help the ones not concerned with their intake to learn a little more about what they are putting in their bodies. - 2/10/2010   5:06:19 PM
  • 69
    For me, personally, the proposed label changes don't matter so much. I'm willing to stand in the store aisle for an extra few minutes and flip over packages to compare nutrition info, including portion size. And most of the food I buy is of the type that doesn't have nutritional labels anyway (produce, bulk grains, and the occasional fresh fish or meat).

    However, when my husband does the grocery shopping, it's a different story. I've finally convinced him to check nutrition labels, but he often forgets about serving sizes and he's only willing to spend a few seconds on the decision-making process for a given type of product. The changes proposed by the FDA would definitely help someone like him make healthier selections. - 2/10/2010   4:13:48 PM
  • 68
    Q: What do you think. Would changes in portion sizes related to nutrition information make a difference in how much you consume?
    A: No. I use the No S Diet for portion control.

    Q: Would having some of the information on the front of the package reduce your portion sizes or help you feel more informed?
    A: No. I make everything from scratch; if it has a label, don't eat it. Eat single-ingredient foods, and mix your own groceries at home. If you don't know how to cook, learn. Start with a crock pot, they are easy and you can't burn the soup.

    Q: Is this an important area for the F.D.A. to focus in their desire to help consumers make healthier choices?
    A: No. The FDA needs to pull their head out of the sand, out of corruption, and do what they were chartered to do, which is NOT to approve dangerous things like aspartame because they were paid off. We have enough govt policing and control and corruption and pay offs, which is NOT the purpose of Govt and misuse of tax dollars. - 2/10/2010   3:53:33 PM
  • 67
    I don't read the nutrition facts label as much as I should but I don't think I would read it more if it was on the front. - 2/10/2010   3:37:41 PM
  • 66
    I think lables should have serving sizes that are more realistic - and be in a font size that is at least readbile w/o a magnifying glass. - 2/10/2010   3:32:31 PM
  • 65
    Front or back does not make a difference to me. I'd rather them focus on a more complete list of nutrients, and better accuracy in the numbers they provide. - 2/10/2010   3:21:54 PM
  • CHARLIETUNA3
    64
    Front or back doesn't matter. Those that are not interested will not look, those that are will regardless of where to look. However, I do agree that on packages where an average person will consume the entire package the nutritional values should equate to the package, not some artificial "serving size". For items that may be either eaten in whole or split then the portion size totals, and the container total should be shown. (An example would be a can of soup that may be split or consumed in whole and which contains "about 2 servings" (common labeling). However, more important may be educating people to look before they consume and to have intelligent info out there as to what values are healthy. - 2/10/2010   3:06:23 PM
  • MOCHWR
    63
    Is it a wonder why the US population is so fat when we can't be bothered to look at the information about what we are consuming because it's on the back of the item.
    I think anything that makes us more aware of what we are eating is beneficial. If the consumers are better informed they may change the items they are buying and the producers would have to adapt. Could be a good think right? - 2/10/2010   2:42:24 PM
  • 62
    Wow, how lazy are we that we cannot take a second to flip a container to read the label on the other side? But yes, the serving size should be noted upfront if they are going to require this type of labeling. - 2/10/2010   2:31:16 PM

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