Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Policy Point Wednesday: Redesigning the Nutrition Label

Rethink the food label from News21 Berkeley 2011 on Vimeo.

Students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program and Good Magazine have decided to answer the First Lady's call to create "clear, consistent, front-of-the-package, labels that give people the information they’ve been asking for, in a format they understand.”  Their response to this charge?  A contest: ask the general public how they would change the nutrition labels to make them more user-friendly.

So, I pass this charge on to readers of this blog: how would you change the nutrition label?  Don't forget - with the unprecedented variety of foods out there - good eating habits can be a quick-moving target.  Just think about where the diet gurus peddling macronutrients have gone in the last 20 years: portion control, no fat, no carbs, more water, etc.  All of these diets work for some people, none of them work for all people.

I am most concerned about finding a way to prevent "healthifying" of foods.  A clear front-of-package label might be a way to circumvent this practice, but it might also be an opportunity for marketers to twist the intent of nutrition labels for their own purposes.  At the core of this debate, we have a large economic system that's rewarded when we over-consume, especially goods that are inexpensive to produce.  While I am confident that savvy consumers can make good choices, especially if they are offered good tools, I continue to be concerned for consumers who favor the easy, familiar and comforting over their long-term health. 

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