The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board is recommending an overhaul of food nutrition labels. In a recent report, IOM suggests listing calories, saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugars on the front of food labels.

 

Congress initiated the review, directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake the study with IOM. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion sponsored the report.

The report concludes that it’s time for a move away from front-of-package systems that provide nutrition information but lack clear guidance about a food’s healthfulness. The board says that the information needs to be simpler, clearer and the meaning should be conveyed graphically.

Hence, the report recommends that FDA develop, test and implement a standard “front-of-package” symbol system to relay the food’s “healthfulness.” Among the traits to be evaluated are saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. “The more points a food or beverage has, the healthier it is,” the report suggests. “This system would encourage food and beverage producers to develop healthier fare and consumers to quickly and easily find healthier products when they shop.”

The report points to the fact that a variety of nutrition rating systems and symbols apply to food packages in grocery stores today and while they’re meant to inform, they often lead to confusion.

This is the second of two reports; the first analyzed the nutrition rating systems and the scientific research that supports them and was released in 2010. This is the second report, which can be found here.