Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Better Labeling, Better Health?

The New York Times ran an article about the changes consumer groups want made to food labels, called A Makeover for Food Labels. The theory is that if food labels were easier to read, and contained more accurate information, then consumers would make healthier food choices. Personally, I'm a bit skeptical of that, but we'll leave it alone for now. I took a look at the new label, which you can view here.

I like it for two reasons. First, the print is a little larger and they've eliminated all caps, which makes the label easier to read quickly. And secondly, the ingredient information is organized in a way that makes sense to me. It separates major ingredients, minor ingredients (defined as 2% or less), and allergen information.

As someone who spends her life reading ingredient labels for allergen information, that last one is a big deal. The FDA has required for some time that major allergens be listed separately, but often they get crammed at the bottom of the ingredient list, where they sort of blend in. It can be hard to spot, which makes labels such as that potentially harmful. This new one makes it larger, highlights the information in red, and does what it's intended to do: draw the eye to it. While gluten is still not an allergen that is always listed, the layout of the ingredient list makes it easier for me to identify gluten containing components.

I don't care so much about the daily amount percentages, mostly because I'm one of those people that eats what I want in moderation. For people watching their sugar, sodium, fat, or caloric intake, though, there are some changes to that section as well. The most notable is the addition of the word HIGH in red lettering to daily amounts over 20%.

Whether this leads to consumers making healthier choices or not, I'm in favor of the new label, simply because it makes it easier to find information. I'm probably still going to put the sugary, fattening, calorie-filled snack in my shopping cart, but it will be nice to be able to see just how sugary, fattening, and calorie-filled it is before I do.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I can really get behind this change. As someone who also has to read the label of everything I buy, that does make it a ton easier. Even the bullets between ingredients is a sensible and convenient modification. Nice find!