Healthy Food Labeling System Proposed to FDA

WASHINGTON - The Center for Science in the Public Interest is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to develop a national set of symbols that consumers can easily use to identify healthful foods.

WASHINGTON - The Center for Science in the Public Interest is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to develop a national set of symbols that consumers can easily use to identify healthful foods. Various CPG companies like Kraft and PepsiCo have developed their own icons and rating criteria over the past few years, but CSPI argued the growing number of independent initiatives can easily confuse or even mislead consumers, since the programs rely on a variety of nutritional standards in pursuit of a company's own goals. "A prominent and reliable symbol on the fronts of packages would be a tremendous help to those harried shoppers racing through the supermarket," said Michael Jacobson, CPSI's executive director. The group also cited organizations like the American Heart Association and the dairy industry's "Three-a-Day" campaign for flawed programs that could be improved with a national set of symbols. For example, the AHA's much-touted "heart check" mark does not take into account the presence of trans fats in an approved food item, even though the FDA has required food manufacturers to list the unhealthy substance on all Nutrition Facts panels since Jan. 1, 2006, Jacobson said. The FDA has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday on the regulation of conventional foods being marketed as “functional foods.” The hearing will examine how these foods fit into existing regulatory regimes. The FDA is soliciting information and comments on how it should regulate these foods under the agency‘s existing legal authority. The hearing will include a series of presentations by agency scientists and other speakers, and an FDA panel question-and-answer session for the invited presenters. Members of the public will then have the opportunity to present their views.