By Janet Fang
Posting in Design
For hurried Americans, the Institute of Medicine recommends a simple front-of-package point system for all food and beverages, with stars or checks based on fats, sugars, and sodium levels.
Federal agencies should develop a nutrition rating system with symbols that readily display calorie counts and info on fats, sodium, and sugars, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which wants a front-of-package system that’s simple and standardized.
"Our report offers a path to develop an Energy Star equivalent for foods and beverages," says committee chair Ellen Wartella of Northwestern University. The system "would enable shoppers to instantly recognize healthier products by their number of points and calorie information.”
Specifically, the system should:
- Detail calorie counts by serving size, and a serving would be something familiar like a slice, cup, or bar.
- And have a point value showing if the saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars in the products are below threshold levels – “the components of diet most closely linked to chronic-disease risk,” describes IOM vice-chair Alice Lichtenstein of Tufts University.
Americans spend about $147 billion a year on obesity-related health costs, Bloomberg reports, with the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs covering 42%.
The government Energy Star program has been rating the energy efficiency of appliances for 19 years. And consumers don’t have to know anything about kilowatt hours or any other scientific specification, says IOM panelist Matthew Kreuter of Washington University.
So, the more points (or checks or stars), the healthier.
"You shouldn't have to be a nutrition scientist to make healthy food choices for your family," Kreuter says. “American shoppers are in a hurry. They don't have time to read a bunch of abbreviations and percentages on every food package.”
A product could earn between 0 and 3 points: one each for having sodium and added sugars that do not exceed threshold amounts, and one for having saturated and trans fats below designated levels. For example, 100% whole wheat bread could get all 3, while graham crackers get 2 points for having levels of sodium and fats below the thresholds.
The food and beverage industry argued that consumers do not want the government to interpret information for them. In January, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute launched their Facts Up Front, which gives information on calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars but doesn’t rate foods according to those components, Wall Street Journal explains.
Image: sample developed by Washington University
Oct 24, 2011
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Americans are becoming stupider and stupider every year. We are pandering to the least common denominator in our society in an attempt to correct a deficiency in our educational system. We don't need to further burden the food industry with a cutesy rating system that will be just as arbitrary as the current nutrition labeling that is currently required on many food products. That being said, it would be nice to just fix what is wrong with the current nutritional labels. And what about fresh fruits and veggies, and meats for the non-vegetarians. No amount of label tweaking will make people choose healthy or non-healthy foods. We have been telling people the wrong information about meat and dairy for hundreds of years and we continue to do so because of the lobbying power of those two industries. And the people continue to buy into the propaganda that both the industry and the government spew out about the health benefits when in fact these choices are literally killing us. People know that both vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier than the standard American diet, yet they continue to ignore that information in favor of convenience or a taste for sweet or fat. We continue to dumb down our food labeling in an attempt to help people when the problem is more systemic to our government and an industrial complex that are in league with each other. We can also blame our cultural heritage derived from the wild west version of cowboy nutrition. We stopped burning 3500 daily calories a long time ago when we all left the family farm for the big city. Until we can force people to make the right food choices, no amount of labeling will be adequate.
having tried to interpret the very fine print of many packages before finding one that meets my criteria, a fast way to choose a small number of items to check more closely would be very welcome. It would also encourage manufacturers to produce more healthy products, if we the consuming public make healthy choices and leave the junk on the shelves.
Not only is this a horribly dumbed own system, but it's based on the flawed ideas that gluten grains are good for you and saturated fat is bad. Thanks again government - our tax dollars at work once again. I could never tire of slapping these imbeciles.
More rating stars, more pictures, and fewer words. Words are so difficult. While this offensive idea is a heinous insult to America, it is deserved.