by Marion Nestle
Mar 17 2009

Danish groups oppose European food ranking system

Several Danish consumer groups have banded together to oppose the food industry-backed GDA system for ranking the nutritional quality of processed foods.  The GDA (the Guidance Daily Amount) system is already in use on some products and food industry groups want it required for all European Union food labels.  Of course food companies want it.  It doesn’t use the U.K.’s red/yellow/green traffic light system that encourages people to avoid the red-labeled products.

The “Stop GDA” campaign argues that the GDA system encourages purchases of processed foods at the expense of the real foods.  It has produced a clever pamphlet to back up this argument.  Its criticisms apply just as well to all scoring systems for food products, except the traffic lights.

  • Hmm…why the GDA system does not have vitamins and minerals as a part of its labeling? I would think that would definitely help differentiate between the healthy and unhealthy goods, which is one of “Stop GDA” group’s concerns. Of course, there are foods that supplement their goods with a ton of vitamins…

    One-sided as it was, I really enjoyed reading their pamphlet. It made me wonder how differently I eat just because of the US’s labeling system.

  • Arlene Johns

    The Danes make a good point about the GDA, and the proposed EU label does start to look much like the current system employed in the US. Although, I have to say the old system using 100gram portions and also including kilojoules was really confusing. Is it really beneficial to put other nutrients on the label? More information usually makes it more confusing – too many numbers. Not to mention that there are really only a few micronutrients that the average public is aware of. In the future maybe we can have interactive computer screens where you scan the item and can pull up all the nutrition information with graphics to help explain.

  • Jon

    Most foods in the US take advantage of the fortification option. That’s why white flour is such a source of folic acid, and apparently the only source. (Spinach is a much better source.) I also noticed that, just like the US, sugar was separated from other high-GI carbohydrates. AN ORANGE IS HEALTHIER THAN WHITE FLOUR!

    Nutritionally there is another concern: Macronutrient portions are arbitrary. The classic example is the US minimum intake of carbohydrates as 60% of total calories. The politics behind carbs as 60% of total calories could fill a book, with the usual villains: Cereal magnates, sugar growers, soft drink companies, and the rest of the junk food. All you need to know? High-carbohydrate diets can lead to a cluster of symptoms known as Syndrome X. At the extreme, you’ve got groups like the Pima; due to the Western diet, more than half their adult population has type 2 diabetes.

  • Pingback: The Ethicurean: Chew the right thing. » Blog Archive » Digest - Features & Blogs: Convention frenzy, local meat gets scrapped, and Michelle’s big announcement()