Nutritional information has popped up on the front of food packages using a wide range of different symbols and rating systems.
But without a common form or standards, there’s a risk that consumers could be confused by the new information, says Matthew Kreuter, PhD, a public health expert and professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
Kreuter and colleagues on an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee looked at existing front-of-package nutritional information systems and reviewed the leading causes of preventable death in the United States.
They determined that the most important information to highlight on the front of a package — in addition to the information already available in the nutrition facts panel on the backs of all products — are calories, saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
“These nutrition factors are the biggest contributors to the leading causes of illness and death in the U.S.,” says Kreuter, director of the Brown School’s Health Communication Research Laboratory.
The IOM committee’s next report will examine how front-of-package nutrition information should be presented to increase the likelihood it will impact people’s decisions and behaviors.
“Peoples lives are busier and not everyone can take the time to stop and read the nutrition facts panel on the back of the package,” Kreuter says.
“So it’s worth considering whether we can make it easier for consumers to make healthy choices by putting important information on the front of the package.”
The IOM report was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Visit the National Academies Press website, nap.edu, to view “Enhancing Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report.”