Easier for Whom?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has been keenly following the fortunes of the recently introduced Food Labeling Modernization Act 2013, which, according to CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, would require “the FDA to implement one useful, consistent, front-label nutrition symbol, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.”

To illustrate what such a label might look like, the group developed a label where the constituent ingredients of a food product are separated by bullets and printed in an easier-to-print upper- and lower-case serif font. While somewhat revealing of CSPI’s prejudices when it comes to processed foods (grouping all of the sugars together to lead off the listing for the unspecified sample item, while the existing label lists ingredients in order of predominance), I believe the new label still presents a much more understandable way for consumers to get the information they increasingly demand about what’s in the food they select from supermarket shelves.

Just as understandable, perhaps, is food makers’ reluctance to spotlight such unappealing-sounding ingredients as polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, propylene glycol or polysorbate 60, no matter how essential they're deemed to be to a particular product’s formulation.

A uniform front-of-pack nutrition label would go a long way toward bolstering trust between shoppers and food providers, giving companies the chance to display greater transparency in their ingredient lists (while also giving them the chance to “clean up” any less-than-savory inclusions) and assuring consumers that they know exactly what they’re getting.

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