When you’re out grocery shopping, what guides your decision-making process? Are you a health-conscious shopper? Are you the expert, calculator in one hand, iPad in the other, deciphering every nutrition facts label you come across, one “% daily value” and one ingredient at a time? Or are you the hungriest customer in the store, hurriedly sweeping anything and everything that looks remotely appetizing into your cart?
Unfortunately, there isn’t always time to double-check the health credentials of the food products we buy or to verify the various marketing claims made on the front-of-package. If only there were a way to determine the nutritional value of a food product at a single glance!
In fact, such a standardized front-of-package labeling system has already been outlined in a congressional bill. The Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013 (H.R. 3147 and S. 1653) would implement a “simple, standard [front-of-package] symbol system that displays calorie information…and information related to nutrients strongly associated with public health concerns.”
However, as of a half-year later, the bill has practically no support in either the House or the Senate. Your own congressmen and -women, from both sides of the aisle, hesitate to cosponsor this bill because it is still politically infeasible. But how could that be? Clearly this would benefit anyone who shops for food, and it could work wonders for Americans’ eating habits! Someone—or something—very influential must be opposed to it. And the culprit: the food industry itself.
We find it worrisome that the main producers of the food products we buy and consume prefer to compete for our dollar using unstandardized and misleading front-of-package nutrition claims, rather than a transparent labeling system. Do they fear we would we stop buying their products if we were better informed?
As a small group of college students, new to the world of food shopping, we are merely spokespersons for these sentiments. On behalf of students across the country, we have written a letter to the First Lady, encouraging her to incorporate a front-of-package labeling initiative into her Let’s Move campaign. We hope to demonstrate to her the interest in this issue among people in our age group.
With over 100 student signatures already, we will continue collecting signatures until the end of the semester, at which point we will present the letter to the First Lady’s office. Please sign here to ask the First Lady to encourage food industry to set better standards for front-of-package food labeling.
Nutritional science has advanced and studies have demonstrated the pivotal role of the front-of-package display in consumer decisions. Only the policy still lags behind. But, with your support, not for long.
This is a guest post written by Emma Nealon, Ali Carter, Silas Frantz, and William Rydzewski of Georgetown University.