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Nutrition labels could be mandated on package fronts

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: nutrition, labeling, health news

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(NaturalNews) According to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, the FDA is working on a plan that would require food manufacturers to print nutrition information on the front of their packaging rather than on the back. The alleged goal of the proposed new mandate is to help busy shoppers quickly decipher nutrition information without having to look at the back of a product.

"Busy shoppers will be able to go into grocery stores and have some easy-to-understand information on the front of packages, giving them quick data on what is a healthier choice," she explained.

While it may seem like a good proposal that would help to improve nutrition transparency, many manufacturers are concerned that the requirement could end up needlessly costing them millions of dollars. Since packaging changes are typically very expensive, many smaller producers might be put out of business by the mandate.

James McCarthy, president and CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA), expressed opposition to the mandate and instead proposed that the change be made voluntary. Because his organization represents 400 snack food manufacturers and suppliers worldwide, many of which are small- or medium-sized operations, he understands the incredible burden that would be placed on them by the requirement.

And his argument is a rational one, considering the fact that nutrition information can easily be found on products as they currently are. Forcing manufacturers to redesign their packages at a tremendous cost to them hardly seems beneficial. If someone is unwilling to turn the package around to read the nutrition information on the back, it is highly unlikely that he or she will bother reading it off the front.

Others disagree, insisting that the mandate would help to combat childhood obesity. Yet it is unclear precisely how the plan will actually accomplish this, and critics see the plan as nothing more than attack on American business.

The FDA is also seeking to establish universal guidelines for how health information is displayed on product packages. The agency would like to eliminate all self-labeling, or labels that indicate that a product is a "healthy choice" or that it benefits "heart health".

According to Sebelius, all labeling should have a "scientific background" and should be tested through an "evidence-based approach." Therefore her agency made recommendations to the FDA that a "national standard" be developed to accommodate such an approach.

Sources for this story include:


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