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IOM Moves Forward on Front-of-Package Labeling

Oct 15, 2010

In a report released Wednesday, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee recommended that front-of-package symbols should include only calorie, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium content of foods and beverages. The committee examining front-of-package labeling systems wants to highlight these nutrients because of their role in the development of obesity and heart disease, which are two of the biggest public health concerns in the United States.

The committee did not recommend the declaration of other vitamins or minerals, such as calcium or vitamin D, because members thought it could lead to inappropriate fortification. Additionally, they avoided recommending sugar or added sugar content in the front-of-package system because these nutrients don’t appear to have an impact on disease beyond their calorie content.

"While we understand the committee's concern for obesity and heart disease, a front-of-package symbol that concentrates only on nutrients that should be limited in Americans' diets does not fully represent the nutrient profiles of dairy foods," said Michelle Albee Matto, IDFA consultant on nutrition and labeling. "Consumers should also be able to learn about beneficial nutrients through a front-of-package labeling system."

Phase II Next

The report ends Phase I of the IOM committee’s work, and its Phase II work will begin with a public meeting on October 26 in Washington, D.C. Phase II will concentrate on consumer behavior related to front-of-package labels.

While the IOM report is not regulation, the Food and Drug Administration will use these recommendations in its efforts to develop a consistent front-of-package labeling approach for all foods and beverages in the United States. FDA has indicated that this consistent federal system would be voluntary.

IDFA has provided two sets of written comments, agreeing that front-of-package labeling should be voluntary and indicating that any point-of-purchase system should include a balance of nutrients to encourage as well as ones to avoid. (See "Keep Front-of-Pack Labeling Voluntary; No Traffic Lights, IDFA Says." Front-of-pack labeling has also been an important focus of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program aimed at reducing childhood obesity.

Read the IOM Committee report here.

For more information, contact Matto at amfoodnutrition@gmail.com or Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, at cfrye@idfa.org.

 
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