The Institute of Medicine (IOM) – which was tasked by the government with coming up with recommendations for one front-of-pack scheme to rule them all – came back with a bold, but controversial answer on October 20.
Rather than simply telling consumers how much sodium, fat, calories and sugar are in their products, food manufacturers should use a standardized labeling system that interprets this information for shoppers, it says.
“The committee recommends that the FDA and the USDA develop, test, and implement a single, standard FOP system to appear on all products, replacing any existing system… The time has come for a fundamental shift in the way information about the healthfulness of foods is presented on the front of food packages."
The most effective system, said the IOM, should “convey calorie counts by serving size and [include] a "point" value showing whether the saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars in the products are below threshold levels.
“The more points a food or beverage has, the healthier it is… A product could earn up to three points, one each for having sodium and added sugars that do not exceed threshold amounts and one for having saturated and trans fats below designated levels.”
Points should be graphically displayed on packaging as “check marks, stars, or some other icon”.