CSPI Reacts to FDA "Calories Count" Initiative
Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson
The labeling changes on which the FDA is soliciting comment would be small but welcome measures. If implemented, they would help those consumers who read labels see how many calories they're taking in.
But obesity is not a small problem and those small steps won't make much of a dent. They need to become part of a much more comprehensive strategy anchored by a number of big steps.
For instance, the government properly expends some effort developing sensible dietary guidelines for Americans, but aside from printing up a small number of brochures and having a press conference or two, the government does virtually nothing to educate Americans about those guidelines.
Why not a penny-per-can tax on soda? That could raise more than $1 billion annually that the government could spend to encourage consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods the guidelines say Americans should eat more of. Let's get junk food out of our schools, and require calories to be listed on fast-food menu boards. Let's fund a major media campaign to encourage kids to get away from the TV and instead take up physical activity--unfortunately the latest Bush budget just zeroed out such a campaign.
Improving Nutrition Facts labels may help a little, but so much more needs to be done.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).