Strike Two for Front-of-Package Food Labeling

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson


In 2009, the food industry’s fatally flawed Smart Choices labeling program became a national laughingstock for putting its logo on junk foods like Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes. Today, the industry is striking out again with its new front-of-package Nutrition Keys. It’s a scheme consisting of confusing icons that will be largely ignored by consumers.

It’s unfortunate the industry wouldn’t adopt a more effective system or simply wait until the Food and Drug Administration developed a system that would be as useful to consumers as possible.

The whole point of front-label nutrition information or symbols should be to convey quickly and simply how healthful a food is. A system with green, yellow, and red dots to indicate whether a food has a good, middling, or poor nutritional quality would probably be a lot more effective than industry’s system. Alternatively, numerical ratings from -100 to +100 or 0 to 10 would allow people to easily compare one brand of food to another. In contrast, Nutrition Keys system appears to be designed to distract consumers’ attention from, not highlight, the high content of sodium, added sugars, or saturated fat in all too many processed foods. 

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