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Front of Package Food Labels and Preventing Disease

A new report was just published on the new front of package food labels that are hitting the shelves slowly but surely. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention along with the Institute of Medicine were directed by the 2009 Congress to make recommendations for food labels.

The committee reported that front of package food labels, instead of our current system, which places food labels on the back of packages, will have an impact on health. The committee found that the growing obesity problem, due to a diet high in calories, saturated fats, sugars and salt, is detrimental to health and can be prevented. In order for people to eat healthier, they must first understand what is healthy.

Consumers are confused due to massive advertising and marketing efforts on the part of food companies. Organic food companies are a large culprit too. A new study just published from Cornell University used two groups of people to show that what people perceive as healthy, may not be so. One group was given regular snacks and asked if they were healthy. The other group was given the exact same snacks but the snack packages were labeled, “organic.” The group who ate the organic labeled snacks ranked they are higher in all of the health categories. Unfortunately, the group of was mislead by an abundance of advertising and marketing. The food had the same calories and fat just a different label.

For this reason, and others, the committee commissioned by Congress concluded that food labels should go on the front of the package. They recommended the following nutrients: Sodium, Calories, Trans-fat, Sugar and saturated fat. If consumers see the information in front of their eyes, maybe they will make better choices. Wording is powerful and it can be utilized to prevent disease.

Shari Portnoy, MPH, RD, LD/N is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She holds degrees in both Nutrition and Public Health and has completed the U.S. Food Laws course at the Michigan State University Institute of Food Laws. She has been a featured speaker at the American Culinary Federation National Convention and a board member of the American Dietetic Association.


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