Beverage industry to provide calorie clarity

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Many of the nation’s beverage companies are joining forces in a voluntary commitment that will make calorie counting more consumer friendly. The initiative comes on the heels of First Lady Michelle Obama’s call earlier today for innovative industry initiatives that contribute to her “Let’s Move” healthy families program.

The companies are expected to coordinate with the Food and Drug Administration to implement the calorie initiative, which will go above and beyond what is required by the federal agency’s food labeling regulations by putting calorie information on the front of all packaging, vending machines and fountain machines. The industry will start implementing the initiative across the United States this year with completion in 2012.

“The beverage industry is taking the extra step of making the calories on its products more clear and useable for consumers so they can make balanced choices wherever they purchase our products,” said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association. “By contributing to the first lady’s initiative, our industry is once again leading with a meaningful program to do its part in addressing social challenges. We applaud Mrs. Obama for her common-sense, balanced approach to a tough issue like childhood obesity, which will require contributions from all segments of society to fully tackle.”

Ms. Neely said the beverage industry also is committed to reducing the beverage calories in the marketplace through innovation, smaller portion sizes and further marketing of low-calorie beverages.

As part of the initiative, total calorie counts will be displayed on the front of beverage labels for the entire container, up to and including 20-oz products. A 12-oz serving size will be used in displaying calories for multi-serve beverage packages (such as 2-liter bottles). For vending machines, the total calorie counts will be displayed prominently on the beverage selection buttons.

The A.B.A. also has pledged to explore other fact-based labeling on its packages, such as the feasibility of expanding the current information for per cent of Daily Value, currently found in the Nutrition Facts Panel of all packaged foods and beverages, to include other nutrients and also put this information on the front of labels where relevant.

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