Misinformation and faulty claims can interfere with making healthy food choices. With obesity and weight-associated diseases on the rise, reaching and achieving health is needed more now than ever. But the real question is, how can consumers reach health goals with misrepresentation frequenting the store's shelves? Front-of-package (FOP) labels or facts-up-front may help break down such barriers.
Front of Package Labels: What Is It?
Front-of-package labeling actually began as a priority and initiative in 2009 and 2010 under the leadership of Commissioner of Food and Drugs Dr. Margaret Hamburg and First Lady Michelle Obama. Efforts are continuously being made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and food companies to relay factual and consistent information to consumers in an easy-to-read and convenient way.
Compared to a nutrition facts label, the FOP label represented above is rather condensed and concise. Looking from left to right, the label contains the number of calories and three "nutrients to limit" - grams of saturated fat, milligrams of sodium, and grams of sugar per serving, as these nutrients increase the likelihood of weight and health concerns.
Food companies have the opportunity to add two further "nutrients to encourage." The product must meet or exceed at least 10 percent of the recommended daily value (DV) and the FDA's requirement as a "good source." These indications are located on the furthest right, as potassium and fiber are endorsed on the label above. Protein, vitamins A, C, D, and calcium and iron can also be promoted, as these nutrients are either required on the nutrition facts panel or commonly lack in the general population's diet.
Importance of Labeling
Front-of-package labeling is an additional resource to guide individuals into making healthier decisions. Such resources are stressed related to the concern of obesity and other nutrition-related diseases, especially with two-thirds of the U.S. population considered to be overweight or obese. Food marketing and promotion controlled through the government may help curb the epidemic and healthcare costs. Furthermore, some marketing strategies and claims such as "low fat" and "natural" may be more misleading than informational. FOP labeling allows customers to gain factual information at a quick glance. Evolving changes may arise in the program to best accommodate the general public. To stay on top of these improvements, go to http://www.factsupfront.org for the latest updates and resources.
Ultimately, make informed decisions not only based on calorie content, but the amount of fat, salt, and sugar. Although those items do not have to be, or should be, completely avoided and restricted, try limiting their intake and focus more on the nutritional quality of whole grains, fruits, veggies, dairy products, lean meats and fish, nuts and nut oils, seeds and seed oils, and vegetable oils.
Facts Up Front-of-Pack Labeling Initiative. Grocery Manufacturers Association. Available at: http://www.gmaonline.org/issues-policy/health-nutrition/facts-up-front-front-of-pack-labeling-initiative/.
Front-of-Package Labeling Initiative. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: www.fda.org