Oct 28 2008

New food rating label: a step forward?

Big Food companies have gotten together and agreed on a scoring system to identify “better-for-you” packaged foods (see below).  Thanks to my colleague in Copenhagen, Morten Strunge Meyer (MortenCopenhagen), for sending the link to the qualifying crieteria.  As is true of scoring systems in general, these are complicated and constitute a slippery slope.  Take sodium, for example.  The allowance is particularly generous (junk foods don’t taste good without it) – 480 mg per serving.  That means 479 mg qualifies and that’s still nearly half a gram.

Having one checkmark instead of the various ones run by PepsiCo, Kraft, and Unilever seems useful if – and only if – the criteria are stringent (which this one is not for sodium), and this symbol replaces all of the others.  Even so, this looks like preemption.  It’s voluntary and seems designed to head off a mandatory traffic light system (red, yellow, green)  that would warn people away from the worst junk foods.  It also preempts the FDA proposal to display the full number of calories per package.  Alas, this is a standard food industry tactic: preempt with something that seems better than what is currently available to stave off something that could be worse.


  • Shari L.

    Dr. Nestle:

    How reliable is the label, “Certified Humane?”

    Many thanks.

  • http://Fooducate.com/blog Hemi W

    If anybody is interested, I’ve posted separate reviews of Smart Choices and NuVal , as well as a brief history of food labeling in the US since the 1860′s.
    check out http://www.fooducate.com/blog

  • Pingback: What to Eat » Eating Liberally: What’s up with salt?

  • http://www.foodrecalls.blogspot.com Rick Tannenbaum

    Smart Choice suffers from an inherent funding stream conflict of interest and can never have integrity. It is voluntary and fully funded by industry. Even the RFP from Keystone (where it seeks an administrator foir the program) repeatedly states that the administrator should limit the costs and burdens on food manufacturers. As soon as the burdens are too high, manufacturers will defund and move onto an icon system that is less onerous.

    There are already 25 icons on US grocery shelves touting simllar standards. Short of an FDA mandate for all foods to be compared on nutritional quality, this is all just PR fluff.

    Rick Tannenbaum

  • http://whattoeatbook.com Marion

    No kidding? I’d like to see that RFP. Thanks for writing.