The federal government requires that most packaged foods carry a standardized label—the Nutrition Facts panel—that provides nutrition information intended to help consumers make healthful choices. In recent years, manufacturers have begun to include additional nutrition messages on their food packages. These messages are commonly referred to as “front-of-package” (FOP) labeling. As FOP labeling has multiplied, it has become easy for consumers to be confused about critical nutrition information. In considering how FOP labeling should be used as a nutrition education tool in the future, Congress directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake a two-phase study with the IOM on FOP nutrition rating systems and nutrition-related symbols. The Food and Drug Administration is also a sponsor.
In Phase 1 of its study, the IOM reviewed current systems and examined the strength and limitations of the nutrition criteria that underlie them. The IOM concludes that it would be useful for FOP labeling to display calorie information and serving sizes in familiar household measures. In addition, as FOP systems may have the greatest benefit if the nutrients displayed are limited to those most closely related to prominent health conditions, FOP labeling should provide information on saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium.