Call made for F.D.A. front-of-pack labeling rules

by Jeff Gelski
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David M. Kessler, M.D., former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, proposes required front-of-pack labeling in a specific format.


WALTHAM, MASS. — The Food and Drug Administration should require front-of-pack labeling in a specific format, said David M. Kessler, M.D., former commissioner of the F.D.A., in an article he wrote that appeared on-line July 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine. He also proposed overhauling the ingredient list by aggregating related ingredients, including sugar, in the article titled “Toward More Comprehensive Food Labeling.”

The F.D.A. in the Federal Register of March 3 proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel.

“The agency’s proposals are strong, urgently needed and likely to make an important contribution to consumer behavior, but I believe they don’t go far enough — additional labeling requirements can do more to influence food choices, reduce obesity and promote health,” Dr. Kessler said.

The F.D.A.’s changes will alter the Nutrition Facts label mandated by Congress in the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 when Dr. Kessler was the commissioner.

Dr. Kessler said the F.D.A. should consider requiring the top three ingredients, calorie count and number of additional ingredients on the front of food packages in bold type. (Image courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine)


Now, Dr. Kessler said, the F.D.A. should become more involved on the front of packages. He said the F.D.A. should consider requiring the top three ingredients, the calorie count and the number of additional ingredients (such as +5 more ingredients) on the front of every package in bold, easy-to-read type.

“To the harried shopper, hoping to make some healthy choices, it would offer a quick way of identifying high-calorie, obesity-inducing food and of finding healthier alternatives,” he said.

Dr. Kessler said he had problems with the current ingredient list, which gives ingredients by weight in descending order.

“Tiny type, complex names and confusing formats make many ingredient lists almost impossible to read or understand,” he said.

He proposed aggregating related ingredients. For example, defining all forms of sugar as a single ingredient might move sugar nearer to the top of many products’ ingredient lists.
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