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About Nutrition Notes

Michelle Albee Matto Nutrition Notes Blog offers insight, news and analysis on nutrition, as well as food labeling. The blog is written by Michelle Albee Matto, who worked in IDFA's regulatory department for eight years, most recently as assistant director for nutrition and labeling.

Michelle now works exclusively for IDFA as a nutrition and labeling consultant. Contact her at

Michelle is a registered dietician and holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Society for Nutrition Education.

Nutrition Notes

  • Help in the Fight Against Hunger

    September 16, 2013
    Before I worked for IDFA, I worked at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), one of the organizations leading the fight against hunger in the United States.  FRAC’s approach to reducing hunger is to ensure that the federal nutrition programs are widely available to the people in need of them,  and these programs help people get access to healthy foods like dairy products. These federal nutrition programs include the school meal programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.  There certainly has been a great overlap between my former and current work. Another anti-hunger organization, Feeding America , is a coalition of food banks across the United States.  This month, Feeding America is coordinating Hunger Action Month to encourage awareness of hunger and action toward reducing the rate of hunger in this country. USDA released a report this month, estimating the number of Americans who experience hunger or food insecurity.  USDA found that 14.5% of American households were food insecure at some point during 2012, meaning that there was difficulty providing enough food for everyone in the household because of insufficient funds.  More than half of these households use SNAP, WIC or the school lunch program in order to help get the food they need. So this month, celebrate the role that dairy companies play in reducing hunger by being an integral part of federal nutrition programs.  And consider what ... Read More
  • So What Is the 'Food System?'

    September 04, 2013
    All of a sudden, I seem to be hearing about the “food system” on a daily basis. This term has been used in discussions of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, there are workshops at the Institute of Medicine about it and universities are developing programs about it. But what exactly is the food system, and how do dairy companies fit? Here’s a good definition of the food system from Cornell University that describes all the pieces that are included.

    “All processes involved in keeping us fed: growing, harvesting, processing (or transforming or changing), packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming and disposing of food and food packages. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each step.” 1

    It can be thought of as a “farm to fork” view of food. Discussions of the food system often touch on sustainability of food production, availability of particular types of foods and people’s eating patterns—these issues are all linked. Food systems can be thought of on global scale or on a very local scale. View an infographic here. Dairy companies fit right in the middle of the process of the food system with processing and packaging dairy products. This is a link between milk production and the ultimate consumer, with companies using resources like raw materials or processing methods and transforming them into a food or beverage that people will choose to eat or drink. If there is a break down at any particular point in the food system, such as an inability to ... Read More
  • Firing Up Physical Activity at School and at Home

    August 12, 2013
    Working in the food industry, we often look at obesity from a food perspective. But the other side of the energy-balance equation, dealing with exercise and physical activity, is just as important. People who don’t get enough physical activity are at higher risk of not only obesity, but also diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and depression. With school out for the summer, I’m really aware of kids’ physical activity. My boys are very active (rambunctious, some would say) and love to be outdoors, but even they can get easily drawn into spending more time than they should watching TV or playing computer games. A report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has highlighted the important role of schools in promoting physical activity among school-aged kids. Since children spend so much time at school, they need to be able to have time for activity while there. The report recommended that children get at least one hour of vigorous or moderate activity each day, with at least half of that time during the scheduled school day, including physical education, recess and other activities. Legislators in New Jersey have introduced a bill that would require schools to have 20 minutes of recess each day. So what can dairy companies do to support more physical activity for kids and everyone? Your company could join the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), which offers grants to build playgrounds and runs the Together Counts campaign. IDFA is an associate member of HWCF. And your company could look for ways to support ... Read More
  • Front-of-Pack Labeling, Around the World (Part 2)

    August 06, 2013
    An interesting followup to last week’s blog entry on front-of-pack nutrition symbols around the world is the recent study that shows that these symbols may not have a significant impact on consumer purchases.  German and Polish shoppers were asked to select products from a pre-arranged lineup with various nutrition icons. They were able to select healthful options when asked, but when they responded to questions about which product they would generally prefer, there was no trend toward the more healthful products. Read More
  • Front-of-Pack Labeling, Around the World

    August 02, 2013

    Any of you who sell products in other countries know that food and beverage labels can look very different from country to country. But one thing has been popping up on food labels globally, including here in the United States—front-of-pack nutrition labeling. While Sweden’s keyhole symbol has been in place for many years, Australia and the United Kingdom have both recently adopted voluntary programs.   Australia Australia recently approved a new front-of-pack labeling system, which will rate the nutritional value of foods and beverages, with up to five stars and icons regarding calories, saturated fat, sodium, sugar and one positive nutrient. This will be a voluntary system, but if after two years the government feels that not enough foods are displaying the symbol, the program could be made mandatory. The criteria for front-of-pack labeling for dairy products is not finalized following concerns that the emphasis on saturated fat content can make yogurt and cheese look less healthy and could discourage people from choosing these dairy foods. United Kingdom This summer, the United Kingdom, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, has finalized a voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labeling icon, which is a hybrid of traffic light symbols and quantitative values for certain nutrients. The symbol declares the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt per serving, and also colors each of these nutrients with red, amber or green based on the level of these nutrients in the food. Sweden/Denmark/Norway The keyhole symbol has been used in Sweden since 1989 ... Read More
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