Get Your Facts Up Front

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Over a year ago, we shared about the Food and Drug Administration's desire for manufactures to post front-of-label nutrition information in an effort to support the fight against obesity in our country. Now, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FM) have announced a new name for their voluntary front-of-package system. They have also launched a new web site as part of their consumer awareness and education campaign.
The objective of their voluntary program is to place fact-based information from the Nutrition Facts panel to the front for easier consumer information gathering as they shop. In addition, the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) is about to release the report and findings next month from their examination of front-of-package nutrition rating systems and symbols. The IOM Phase 1 report released last October indicated front-of-package labeling should include calories, serving size, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium information. Unfortunately, they also concluded that including other information such as protein, fiber or vitamins and minerals could contribute to consumer confusion. The second report is expected to include format guidance based on consumer use and understanding of various symbols and systems.
So what nutrition information might you begin to see on the front of your products?

The GMA indicates that the new Facts Up Front system is:
  • Fact based

  • Fully compliant with existing FDA regulations

  • Aligned with the federal government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines

  • Developed in consultation with government stakeholders

  • Simple for consumers to use based on extensive testing with basic label information for calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar together as a consistent set.
Regrettably, there is some resistance to the industry's efforts. Concerns focus on the fact that the proposed information to be provided doesn't help consumers know whether foods have a high, medium, or low amount of a particular nutrient. Some seem to prefer more of a red light, green light approach to front of package labels. We may see some tweaking to the revealed Facts Up Front information after the IOM report is released. As of now, consumers should begin to see the new iconography in the marketplace beginning late 2011.
What do you think about the ever-changing nutrition label debate? Will this new approach change how you shop for nutrition rich food?

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Anyone that really cares about what they are eating is going to be looking at the full nutritional information. The front does need to have portion size attached or just be for the full container, because, lets face it, it is there for shock value. Report
As mentioned by EMMAWHITEMAN, the UK traffic light system gives a decent summary of nutritional information with colour coding for easier shopping. The only downfall is that serving sizes are not consistent, even within the same store. One pre-packed salad or sandwich may look lots healthier than another, until you squint at the serving size and see that they're wildly different (one might be based on the whole sandwich, while the other is per half sandwich). We still have to keep our wits about us. Report
The change that was put into place is sufficient, tho I would like fiber and protein added.

THEN if I am interested I can check out the ingredients of the "top two" to see if there are any "evils" lurking in the food. It my adaption to try to improve the quality of the food (and hopefully nutrition) I am eating.

Let it sit a while to see how it feels after a while - did it make a noticeable difference in buying habits? Overall health in a target group, etc. Report
All that would have to change from this format is to have the serving size after a dash following "PER SERVING".
PER SERVING - .75 cup (or grams, or whatever!) Report
People differ quite a bit in their nutrient needs, so I think more than a red light/green light approach can be more useful to more of the population. By supplying a more detailed nutrient listing, each consumer can see how the food's nutritional content fits into *their* personal nutritional needs. Report
I like the idea of this info, listed on the front of the pkg. and we really do need to see the serving size, as well. Report
I think that the minimum information they are now required to have regarding cholesterol, carbs, fiber and protein should be on the front. Report
One our local grocery stores has a shelf label for foods that gives a number from 0 to 100 where 0 is devoid of nutrition and 100 is full of nutrition. I don't know the precise way they figure out each food, but cheerios is a "37", broccoli is a "100". It seems pretty straight-forward. It's yet another healthful way to make choices. I am eager to check out different cereals, etc to see which are the best. Report
I look at calories, serving size, potassium (if they deign to list it!), protein, and fiber. Most of those are not part of this, so it isn't all that useful to me! Report
I used to love the traffic light system used by Sainsburys and some others in the UK. Regardless of portion size it tells you if, per serving, there is a high medium or low amount of something in a food. I still look at the back to heck other stuff but the red meant I never even picked up the package in the first place and so saved me time! Report
Where Paul's health is concerned we do our very best to ensure the food we eat meets those standards. True we do fail occasionally, but more information is always a better thing. Report
Honestly I don't even pay that thing any attention Report
If they leave the back label for those used to it that will be fine with me.
My hope is with the label on the front people will hopefully read it. Many people NEVER even know there is a label on there.

So long as we have our information I think this bigger front label despite how little information it has might help some others look at nutrition for once in their lives. Pat in Maine.
Please do not knock it, let's give this a try. Report
I agree with serving size but I also look for the fiber content. I think that would be more useful than sugar. Report
Without serving size, the rest is valueless!

I'm concerned that this dummied-down info. will take the place of the more detailed (much more useful) material on the back. If that's where the trend is, I'll fight it! I want to know ingredients, as well as their generalized 'impact.' Report
I agree with the fact that serving size plays a vital part in all this. All they need is one more little box to add to the front. :) Report
I see this system as a good start. I like the fact that it's visually clean and uncluttered, something that some of the other options I've seen in competitions are not. I agree that the addition of serving size (or number of servings) would be an improvement but I don't see that as a deal breaker. Report
If enough firms start doing this, then consumers may start to assume any food product NOT displaying the label is "bad" (otherwise, why are they "hiding" the info). Thus, all we need to do is reach a critical mass and it should become routine. Report
I think it's a good start. Report
My grocery store started using a "NuVal" system where on the price sticker on the shelf is also a nuval number. It's a number between 1-100 and the higher the number, the more nutritious the item. I love this. I had the option of two like products this weekend (steel cut oatmeal) and one had a rating in the 30's and one in the 90's. This quick glance option makes shopping with two small (bored!) children really easy. The front of the package labeling seems like a similar idea but I've never paid attention to it. Report
As others have said, if it doesn't list the serving size on the front then any information it does provide is still nearly useless. I'll still be taking the product off the shelf to look at the back and compare. Report
I agree with LITHE11 - the serving size is often the key as to whether something is considered healthy or not-so-healthy. Will they list the serving size on the front of the package as well?

I guess it's a good starting point - like TOWHEE suggests, it can help people narrow down their choices with a cursory glance of the front of the package. I think the trans fat and sodium information are especially important to know right away - if something has trans fats or high sodium count, I don't even bother. This would make that decision even simpler. Report
I love it! This may not provide me with everything I need to know about the product, but I feel it will help me make a better selection. Right now I do a major faux-pas (I do not check the nutrition information before I buy!); this gives me "food for thought" so that I can investigate further if need be! Report
Right now I'm using the "front of the package" nutrition information as a rough sort to decide whether I want to even look at the back of the package (i.e. too many sugars, too much fat). I still look at the back of the package before putting the item in my grocery cart.

My concern about "red light, green light" is where are the divisions going to be set. What we really need to do to fight the obesity epidemic is to get people to buy unprocessed foods and cook at home, but the GMA and FMI would be against that.
Unless they tell how big the serving size is, we're STILL going to have to look at the back! So it's not really going to be very helpful. Report
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