Nutrition advocates are squaring off with the food industry over proposed revisions to disclosure labels on packaged foods such as cereals and snacks.
At issue: Whether current labels, which typically run on the back or side of products, are sufficient to communicate to consumers the potential dangers of, say, high sugar or fat content.
Health experts are pushing instead for disclosures to run on the front of packages.
And the food industry doesn’t like that idea one bit.
“There really is a lack of robust evidence” to support the case for front labels, Roberta Wagner, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs at the Consumer Brands Assn., told the Wall Street Journal.
Front labels could “demonize” certain foods, she said.
That’s a stretch — and suggests an unwillingness on the part of the food industry to stand behind its products.
It’s pretty simple. If current labeling requirements were sufficient to safeguard the well-being of the American people, this would be reflected in societal health standards.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 20% of U.S. adults — that’s 1 out of every 5 — are obese.
In 16 mostly southern states, the obesity rate runs 35% or more.
The Food and Drug Administration says it’s studying the matter and will consider both sides’ perspectives.
To me, this hearkens back to safety warnings for cigarettes. The tobacco industry insisted for years that such disclosures were unnecessary.
Researchers said it was hard to determine if the warnings had much of an impact on chronic smokers.
But at the very least they raised awareness about the dangers of tobacco products — and hopefully deterred some young people from heading down that road.
More-prominent food labels may not significantly cut our consumption of unhealthy ingredients.
But they couldn’t hurt. And are worth trying.