Food Labels That Work

02/03/2014 § 3 Comments

Around 95% of Americans report that they support food-labeling requirements.  So why haven’t lawmakers risen to public demand [1]?

Food and grocery manufacturers receive increasing media attention for opposing numerous product-labeling requirements, some of which would mandate that corporations classify products containing genetically modified ingredients.  They’ve been busy preparing legislation aimed at the first state to put labeling requirements into effect, although no state has yet to do so.  In addition, the Grocery Manufacturers Association introduced a federal labeling bill to redefine genetically engineered (GE) products as “safe” and “natural,” which would drastically distort the image of GE foods that label-conscious consumers desire.  And that’s not all.

Lawmakers also struggle to adapt the outdated Nutritional Data information box on processed food items.  Although numerous locally supported methods exist, the method with the most support is the innovative traffic light system.  The basic premise is that foods deemed “healthier” would carry a green label.  Yellow labels would contain moderate nutritional value.  Red labels are reserved for foods with “little to no nutritional value”[2].  Due to the reluctance of many within the food industry, the traffic light idea is stuck in a slow trial phase.  Concerned industries worry that new labels will deter consumers from their products.  They prefer the more convoluted Nutrition Data panels, which can be difficult for consumers to decipher, often disguising obesity-causing foods as health foods.  This dilemma highlights the need for a non-industry food-labeling program, and the traffic light idea may pave this road.

What does the future hold for food labeling systems?  With luck and good governance we could witness a growth of consciousness toward food labeling in our communities.  Until states put legislation into effect, all of us consumers will just have to wait.

 

[1]       Center for Food Safety.  http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/1881/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12765

[2]       ‘Traffic Light’ Food Labeling Leads To Healthier Choices.

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2014/01/13/traffic-light-food-labeling-leads-to-healthier-choices/

[3]       “Traffic light’ food labels changed buying habits, study finds”.  http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sn-traffic-light-food-labels-20140107,0,1571694.story#ixzz2pvEY8Ef6

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§ 3 Responses to Food Labels That Work

  • jstavole says:

    Very interesting article! This reminds me a lot of the GMO labeling debate and whether these foods are actually “safe” to consume. A recent article on the topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-fields/gmo-labeling-a-movement-i_b_4719397.html

  • aebrinke says:

    The debate about how to encourage Americans to eat healthier foods is certainly a controversial one, and while banning the selling or purchasing of certain foods in the store could backfire (because people seem to really not like when you tell them what they can and cannot have), the labeling of foods seems like the most effective method we might consider. I hadn’t heard of the “traffic light” system–I’m glad you discussed it! I think that a lot of controversy will arise from labeling things so simply “good” or “bad,” but it can only be beneficial that these ideas and conversations keep happening.

  • great post! From my perspective, more information is never a bad thing; however, I would like to see stricter regulations on what food can meet definitions like “natural,” “organic,” etc.

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