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Keep Front-of-Pack Labeling Voluntary; No Traffic Lights, IDFA Says

Jul 30, 2010

In comments filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week, IDFA encouraged FDA to keep front-of-pack labeling voluntary and stressed that labeling symbols similar to the traffic light system used in the United Kingdom would not be useful. Additional comments filed by the National Cheese Institute highlighted results of a recent study that showed consumers do not perceive a need for front-of-pack labeling on packaged cheese.

The comments were filed Wednesday, July 28, 2010, in response to a request for comment from FDA seeking input and consumer information on front-of-pack labeling symbols and systems. The comments highlighted the nutritional benefits of dairy foods and stressed that any front-of-pack system should declare nutrients to encourage, rather than just nutrients of concern.

"Healthy eating includes not just avoidance of nutrients, but overall good nutrition," the comments said. "Healthy diets and healthy foods take into account both nutrients that people should consume more of and also those that people should consume less of."

The traffic light labeling system relies on the negative nutrients present in a food or beverage, not allowing for the full nutrient profile of a food to be communicated. IDFA's comments also summarize recent research from Europe demonstrating that significant numbers of consumers misunderstand the traffic light symbols.

Separate comments from the National Cheese Institute expanded on the IDFA comments, and included results from a study that examined consumer knowledge of cheese and attitudes toward front-of-pack labeling on packaged cheese. The study, commissioned by Sargento, demonstrated that a majority of consumers understand that cheese is a source of calcium, protein, saturated fat and sodium. Seventy-two percent of the surveyed consumers felt that cheese labels already provided adequate nutrition information. Additionally, the study showed that consumers use criteria other than nutritional information to make purchase decisions about cheese.

"When they make decisions about the type of cheese to purchase, most consumers select a product based on the variety of cheese, such as cheddar or mozzarella (38%), or the cheese's price (22%), rather than on the nutrient profile of the specific cheeses," the NCI comments state. "Only 6% of the respondents ranked nutritional information as the most important consideration when they purchase packaged cheese."
In addition to FDA's interest in front-of-pack labeling, this type of labeling is also under review by a committee of the Institute of Medicine and has been recommended by the First Lady's "Let's Move" program and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

The full comments, along with details of the consumer study, can be accessed here:

For more information, please contact Michelle Matto at 202-431-6864 or amfoodnutrition@gmail.com

 
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