The GMA and FMI announced their intention to develop the joint labeling program – called Nutrition Keys – directly following the release of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report in October. The report recommended that front-of-pack labels should draw attention to calories and to nutrients that could be harmful if consumed to excess: Saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.
Nutrition Keys will highlight calories, saturated fat, and sodium, and also adds sugars, which were not included in the IOM’s recommendations.
In addition, the voluntary scheme will not mention trans fats front-of-pack, as the IOM report recommended, but will allow food companies to highlight up to two ‘nutrients to encourage’ – nutrients important for a healthy diet but lacking in the general population. The program specifies potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron and protein.
President and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute Leslie Sarasin said: “Today’s sophisticated consumer wants more information about their food than ever before. Nutrition Keys, combined with the many innovative nutrition education tools and programs in retail stores, is helping us meet that challenge and exceed consumer expectations.”
GMA and FMI members represent the majority of food and beverage manufacturers in the United States, and companies will begin to include the labeling system on their products in the coming months. The scheme will be accompanied by a $50m consumer education campaign to be funded by food manufacturers and retailers.
GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey said: “Food and beverage companies have a strong track record of providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, and this program represents a significant milestone in our ongoing effort to help consumers construct a healthy diet.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its intention to scrutinize front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition claims in 2009 amid concerns that a proliferation of such labels could confuse the public about nutrition information. October’s IOM report represented the FDA’s first phase in this research and its second phase report is due out in the fall 2011.
The agency said in a letter to industry in October 2009 that it intends to establish “standardized, science-based criteria on which FOP labeling must be based.”
The FDA is still awaiting the second phase IOM report and has not released its final recommendations, but the GMA and FMI claim that their new labeling scheme has been developed “in response to a request from First Lady Michelle Obama in March of last year.”