Federal bill would make grocery labels simpler, clearer, and more informative
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Apr. 11, 2018)—Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today announced its support for the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2018, federal legislation that would make it easier for consumers to make informed, healthy choices about the packaged groceries they buy, eat, and serve their families. The bill also would crack down on several types of marketing claims on food labels that can be confusing or misleading, including by making consumers think certain foods are more nutritious or more sustainably produced than they actually are.
William Wallace, Senior Policy Analyst for Consumers Union, said, “Food labeling should be simple, clear, and meaningful for consumers, and shouldn’t mislead them. Yet, all too often, consumers face confusing, complex labels when grocery shopping—making it more difficult for them to quickly compare products and know if the food they might want to buy really is healthy.
“Consumers should be able to quickly compare food packages and make informed, healthy choices for themselves and their families. We urge all members of Congress to support the Food Labeling Modernization Act and pass these strong reforms to nutrition labeling rules.”
The bill, introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., (D-N.J.), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), includes as its centerpiece the establishment of a single, standard, front-of-package nutrition labeling system for packaged foods, which would be required to clearly distinguish between healthy and unhealthy nutrients. This system could include a stop-light, points, stars, or another common signaling system to scale foods according to their overall health value, as well as warning symbols for excessive amounts of saturated or trans fats, sodium, added sugars, or other nutrients associated with health concerns.
The bill also targets specific misleading marketing claims, such as labels improperly indicating a food is “healthy,” “natural,” or “whole grain.” It enhances disclosure for a variety of ingredients important to consumers’ health, and improves labeling for phosphorus, caffeine, and sesame.
Consumers Union endorsed previous versions of the Food Labeling Modernization Act legislation in 2013 and 2015, and separately has urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize new protections for consumers to improve the Nutrition Facts panel.
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