Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Front of the pack labeling regulations are in place in one form or the other in many countries of the world during the last two decades and this can be considered as the biggest gain for the consumer in taking decisions regarding purchase of healthier foods. These laws also keep the food processing industry on its toes to be more transparent and truthful regarding the nutritional quality of the products it makes. Of course the impact of labeling laws is still a matter of conjecture, especially in countries where literacy rate is abysmally low and where nutrition awareness is practically nil. Still one can say that these laws are the first step in inculcate discipline within the industry and give consumers some relief from food products with doubtful health value and junk foods with zero nutrient  density. Recent attempts by the food authorities in USA to introduce nutrient labeling of products offered in restaurants and grocery stores is creating a ruckus which is unlikely to fade away soon. Here is a take on this new issue that is the focus of attention by the industry as well as the consumer activist organizations.   

"A study released last month by the Drexel University School of Public Health found that consumers ordered a healthier meal at full-service eateries when labeling information was in place. But it noted that diners still picked high calorie foods. Overall, the difference between a healthier meal with menu labeling and one without it amounted to about 155 calories, the researchers found in the first field-based survey of the label laws. Diners viewing labeled menus also consumed 224 milligrams less sodium and 3.7 fewer grams of saturated fat. The study found that 26 percent of all customers used menu labels when they were available. But even those diners ate too much because many restaurant portions are oversized. As a result, diners often exceed total daily need of about 2,000 calories in just one restaurant meal".

There is a point in the contention that the application of labeling rules to grocery store products may not be of any impact as most products are already packed with front of the pack providing information provided by the manufacturers. However restaurant preparations which are not standardized across the various eateries can vary in nutrition enormously from one vendor to another and nutrition labeling, especially with respect to calories, fat and sodium is a must. The USFDA should not budge from its stand under any circumstances if it is to help the consumers in a positive way. The Drexel University finding is a timely warning that in spite of the mandatory labeling, consumers will still over eat if portion size is not down sized sufficiently to restrict consumption. The current trend of offering every thing in jumbo size must give way to mini sized preparations with much less calories and other undesirable components in the products.


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