Consumers speed through aisles, labels go unnoticed

There is currently no law requiring food manufacturers to put nutrition labels on the front of product packages, and therefore the majority of manufacturers place the labels on the back or side of their packaged foods products. But grocery store shoppers are often in a hurry and rarely take the time to flip the package and read the nutrition information on the back, according to Ezekiel J. Emanuel, an opinion columnist for the New York Times. This is especially true for shoppers with kids in tow, he said.

Parents who grocery shop with their kids often speed through the grocery store without taking the time to read nutrition labels. This habit can lead to unhealthy choices and childhood obesity.

In Emanuel’s piece, “Healthy Labels, Not Stealthy Labels,”  he writes that we need simple, standardized icons that are located in a consistent place on all food packages.  There have been many front-of-packaging labeling attempts throughout the history of the food industry, and recently Walmart and other companies have begun releasing icons that convey a value judgement about the product’s nutrition. But consumers will get overwhelmed and confused if  companies all implement independent symbols and there is no standard, Emanuel said. And here’s a fun fact: 90 percent of Walmart’s products will never be eligible for the new “Great for You” seal of approval, according to Fooducate.

Facts up Front, a nutrient-based labeling system that puts an easy-to-use format on the front of food and beverage packages, is making strides to help customers construct a healthy diet for themselves. But it is a voluntary, not required, initiative.

There has been talk in the past couple of years about food manufacturers adding nutrition information to their front of their packages, but the talk has not inspired action. Emanuel argues that these labels would not only encourage consumers to make healthier choices, it will encourage food manufacturers to make healthier products. It is the production of healthier foods, he says, that will combat obesity and promote health.

Read what the Los Angeles Times has to say about this issue.

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