Calories becoming a focal point of public health
March 9, 2014
KANSAS CITY — There are many proposed changes to the Food and Drug Administration’s updated Nutrition Facts panel, but one change not to be overlooked is the font size for the calories and servings listed. Convenience long has been a hallmark of food and beverage manufacturing and now the F.D.A. is making it more convenient for consumers to know how many calories are in the products they are consuming.
It is easy to look at data from market research groups like the NPD Group and conclude many consumers will lose interest in the Nutrition Facts panel after a period of time. But what the F.D.A. is proposing is unlike past efforts and has the potential to create a competitive landscape where caloric content becomes a key point of differentiation in the marketplace.
In the Federal Register notice, the F.D.A. stated that after issuing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in 2005, it received several comments that supported increasing the prominence of calories on the Nutrition Facts label. Further in the document, the agency added that the ability to determine the caloric content of packaged foods is important for all consumers, especially those who are trying to control their total caloric intake and manage their weight.
“Research conducted for warning labels and drug label formats has consistently demonstrated that increasing type size, among other things, increases attention to, and improves understanding of warning information, especially for older consumers and those with limited vision,” the F.D.A. said in its proposal.
Surveys conducted by groups like the International Food Information Council have highlighted consumer confusion regarding caloric intake, and the F.D.A.’s effort to improve consumer knowledge is laudable. Getting consumers to better understand how many calories they are consuming related to how many they should consume on a daily basis is a key public health strategy.
With calorie counts having been added to some food service menus in the past few years and now the F.D.A.’s effort to make the calories in food products sold at retail as prominent as possible, it is clear an effort is under way to make calories a focal point for improving public health. Forward-thinking industry executives need to keep this in mind as the proposed Nutrition Facts panel changes make their way through the rulemaking process.