The announcement comes in the wake of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report released last week that found front-of-pack nutrition labels would be most useful to consumers if they highlight calories and nutrients that could be harmful when consumed in excess, such as trans fat, sodium, and saturated fat.
The details of the new labeling program, including technical and design issues, will be worked out over the coming months, the GMA said, with the label due to start appearing on food and beverage products early next year.
GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey said: “The food and beverage industry is committed to empowering consumers by providing them with the products, tools and information they need to achieve and maintain a healthy diet…Through this initiative, we continue to deliver on our promise to our consumers and demonstrate that we are moving farther, faster in our ongoing effort to play a constructive and responsible role in the fight against obesity.”
The label’s launch will be accompanied by a $50m consumer education campaign directed toward parents and primary shoppers, the GMA said.
Current chair of the FMI board of directors, and president and CEO of Hy-Vee, Ric Jurgens said: “We live in a fast-paced world that gets busier by the day. By placing clear and straightforward nutrition information on the front of our packages, we are furthering our industry’s commitment to helping our customers make healthy choices.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its intention to scrutinize front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition claims last year amid concerns that they could confuse the public about nutrition information. The recently released IOM report represents the FDA’s first phase in this research.
The agency said in a letter to industry in October last year that it intends to establish “standardized, science-based criteria on which FOP labeling must be based.”
There is a proliferation of front-of-pack labeling schemes in the United States, some endorsed by health organizations, and others with criteria devised by organizations like the Whole Grains Council, or by companies themselves. However none of the front-of-pack symbols is regulated by the FDA.