The Lie: Front-of-Package Labeling Systems
Front-of-Package Labeling Systems
They may seem like a useful tool for finding the healthiest foods on the shelf. But the 20, mostly industry-created, front-of-package labeling systems that have been launched in the past few years aren’t trying to make finding healthy food easy for you. They’re just trying to sell you products. Food companies have been setting their own nutrition criteria for evaluating their very own products and identifying the ‘better-for-you’ or ‘more nutritious’ products with special front-of-package logos. By company standards, many of their products qualify for the logos. FOP labels are a tool for selling, not buying and often highlight the good (levels of fiber, vitamins and minerals) and ignore the bad (fat, sodium and added sugar).
To get the real thing:
The FDA got annoyed by these standards when “better for you” labels started appearing on Froot Loops and Fudgsicles, and the agency asked an independent advisory board to evaluate the claims and come up with a better front-of-package labeling system. That board determined that consumers need to care about four things, which may or may not appear on a front-of-package label: calories, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium. But since Nutrition Facts panels can be unreliable measures of those ingredients, your best bet is to avoid packaged foods altogether and opt for whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed meats.