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Consumers to Benefit from Easier-to- Read Food Labels


Amid rising concerns that consumers are confused by the number and variety of health rating systems in place on grocery food items, there are now plans to simplify the process.

In 2010, results from a study requested by the US Congress through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) were examined to analyze the nutrition rating system currently in place. A further study is now determining the effectiveness of the present system in order to find out whether consumers are using and understanding the information as it is presented.

There has been widespread concern that the nutrition labelling is confusing, and that many shoppers simply don’t have the time to stop and interpret the data. This makes it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions regarding healthy food choices.

The latest report suggests moving away from labelling systems which rely on nutrition information about the food itself, but do not focus on whether or not the item is a healthy choice. The report proposes the use of a non-written form of communication such as visual symbols, which would convey necessary information at a glance.

Other recommendations include a standardized symbol to replace various icons that are currently in use. This symbol would indicate the calorie count of the food item in household serving s. A point system would also be used to evaluate the content of a food item based on saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and sugar. The higher the number of points, the healthier the food item would be.

By using a points based system for labelling food, it is hoped that consumers will be able to determine immediately which food items are the healthiest when given a number of choices. Likewise, manufacturers may also be more motivated to produce healthier products for consumers.

Source: Institute of Medicine of the National Academies