GMA Fires Back at Report Critical of Front-of-package Nutrition Ratings

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) defended its “Facts Up Front” nutrition labeling system, in the wake of a critical report from the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols.

“The report concludes that it is time for a move away from front-of-package systems that mostly provide nutrition information on foods or beverages but don’t give clear guidance about their healthfulness, and toward one that encourages healthier choices through simplicity, visual clarity, and the ability to convey meaning without written information,” the Washington-based IOM said. “The report recommends that the Food and Drug Administration develop, test, and implement a single, standard [front-of-package] symbol system to appear on all food and beverage products, in place of other systems already in use. The symbol system should show calories in household servings on all products. Foods and beverages should be evaluated using a point system for saturated and trans fats and sodium, and added sugars. The more points a food or beverage has, the healthier it is. This system would encourage food and beverage producers to develop healthier fare and consumers to quickly and easily find healthier products when they shop.”

While noting that the committee’s report added “perpective to the national dialogue about front-of-pack nutrition labeling,” GMA responded that “[i]n the meantime, food and beverage companies have developed a real-world program that delivers real value to real consumers in real time.”

Added the Washington-based trade association: “Consumers have told us that they want simple and easy-to-use information, and that they should be trusted to make decisions for themselves and their families. The most effective programs are those that consumers embrace, and consumers have said repeatedly that they want to make their own judgments, rather than have government tell them what they should and should not eat. That is the guiding principle of Facts Up Front, and why we have concerns about the untested, interpretive approach suggested by the IOM committee.”

The IOM's proposal has been endorsed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group, which calls the report's recommendation "far preferable" to the voluntary Facts Up Front system.

Introduced this past January, Facts Up Front was developed after extensive consumer testing that revealed consumers wanted fact-based information regarding calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium, and, where appropriate, information on recommended nutrients.

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