Food Rating Systems

The Nutrition, Labeling and Education Act of 1990 requires U.S. food manufacturers to disclose certain nutritional information about their products via standardized package labels.  Partly in response to the escalating obesity epidemic, food manufacturers and retailers have developed more than a dozen different nutrition rating systems and labels to help guide consumers in their food purchasing decisions and dietary choices.

Nutrition rating systems present opportunities for educating consumers about nutrition and promoting changes in dietary practices, but the varied formats and criteria of these systems also pose potential problems. Some critics argue that nutrition rating systems, which were intended to simplify consumers’ purchasing decisions and make nutritional information easier to comprehend, have instead led to a confusing maze of competing nutrition claims. Where once grocery shoppers were simply able to consult a Nutrition Facts panel or ingredients list on a food package, they now are faced with a confusing array of different labels, symbols, ratings, on-package health claims, in-store signs, and food advertisements.

Public health professionals and policymakers are currently studying the effectiveness of U.S. nutrition rating systems, exploring the role of agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration in overseeing food labeling, and considering policy options to develop and enforce nutrition rating systems that are of the most benefit to consumers.  The overall public health goal is to provide consumers with useful and convenient nutritional information that they can use to improve their diets.

The Nutrition, Labeling and Education Act of 1990 requires U.S. food manufacturers to disclose certain nutritional information about their products via standardized package labels.  Partly in response to the escalating obesity epidemic, food manufacturers and retailers have developed more than a dozen different nutrition rating systems and labels to help guide consumers in their food purchasing decisions and dietary choices.

Nutrition rating systems present opportunities for educating consumers about nutrition and promoting changes in dietary practices, but the varied formats and criteria of these systems also pose potential problems. Some critics argue that nutrition rating systems, which were intended to simplify consumers’ purchasing decisions and make nutritional information easier to comprehend, have instead led to a confusing maze of competing nutrition claims. Where once grocery shoppers were simply able to consult a Nutrition Facts panel or ingredients list on a food package, they now are faced with a confusing array of different labels, symbols, ratings, on-package health claims, in-store signs, and food advertisements.

Public health professionals and policymakers are currently studying the effectiveness of U.S. nutrition rating systems, exploring the role of agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration in overseeing food labeling, and considering policy options to develop and enforce nutrition rating systems that are of the most benefit to consumers.  The overall public health goal is to provide consumers with useful and convenient nutritional information that they can use to improve their diets.

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