by Marion Nestle
May 28 2011

Redesign the Nutrition Facts label? Here’s your chance!

Utne reader has just announced the most interesting contest: redesign the food label.

The contest is sponsored by Good magazine and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program.  It is called the Rethink the Food Label project.

Anyone can enter.  Just think of some way that would make the label more useful.

The FDA is currently working on doing just that, and for good reason.  The label is so hard to use that the FDA devotes a lengthy website to explaining how to understand and use it.

This too is understandable.  The Nutrition Facts label is the result of regulations in response to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990.  When the FDA started writing regulations to implement the Act, it tested consumer understanding of a bunch of potential designs.

The result?  Nobody understood any of them.  The FDA, under pressure to complete the regulations by the congressional deadline, chose the option that was least poorly understood–the best of a bad lot.

Surely someone will come up with something better than this?  The deadline for submission: July 1. One of the judges is Michael Pollan. Give it a try!


  • shirley

    How about being kind to allergy & intolerance sufferers by honestly listing ALL ingredients? Would save visits to doctors & Hospitals, prevent worsened symptoms & unnecessary avoidance of added foods caused by thinking that another additional food must be responsible because the allergen isn’t listed in a commonly eaten food.

  • Christian

    I definitely think food labels should actually have to list what is in the “spices”. Being allergic to onion, it is quite tough to know if onion is included in “spices” as it often is hidden there. If it had to be listed (along with everything else), that would save many anaphylactic allergic reactions and trips to the hospital for many people.

  • Anthro

    What is so hard to understand? Not that I don’t think it can be improved. My idea would be to clearly indicate how many calories are in the package. And forget basing everything on 2000 calories. That is only an average and doesn’t apply to a lot of people in
    either direction.
    Poster #1- I am an “old” woman who often (figuratively) wags her tongue (rather than finger) at her children and grandchildren for eating crap food. Some call it “scowling”, some call it wisdom. I sincerely hope that you were just trying to make a joke of sorts.

  • Good Magazine’s 2010 “partnership” with the Pepsi Refresh Project seriously calls into question their involvement with this project.

  • Canadian Jan

    Standardizing serving sizes would make it easier to compare products for nutritional value.

  • Jayne

    Wouldn’t it be great to have two sides of the label: one to show valuable nutrients and the other to show the excess flavorings, additives, sugars etc. Then fully disclose any GMO products used and ALL ingredients (as mentioned above) such as MSG so it’s not hidden as “other spices”. Percentage of daily value should be gone since it means nothing to most of us BUT the serving size should be realistic. If you buy a single serving package or drink it shouldn’t be broken down into 2 or more servings which causes people to believe they are ingesting less fat, sugar etc. Unfortunately, large corporations would never allow this to happen but it’s worth a try.

  • SIlver

    I would really like to see the values for the entire product being sold. Just today my wife came home with “artisanal” (HA!) lemonade that gave the nutritional info for exactly 2/3 of the 12 ounce bottle. This should be a crime and punishment should include whipping food marketing exec’s who lie so incessantly to us. I am completely serious about this.