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Prevention Institute

October 20, 2011

Prevention Institute and Strategic Alliance’s statement on the Institute of Medicine’s Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols

“Today, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its Phase II report and findings on front-of-package (FOP) labeling—symbols and icons often used on food packaging to identify healthier products. We commend the IOM for putting facts first, and recommending a single, simple and uniform label for all products. Under this simple new system, a banana would get a high rating, while sugar-sweetened cereals could receive a zero. That’s the kind of information parents need to identify truly healthy choices for kids.

The current system—in which food and beverage manufacturers use self-developed labels, with little consistency, clarity or oversight—is at best confusing and at worst deceptive. Prevention Institute ‘s 2011 study Claiming Health: Front-of-Package Labeling of Children’s Food, examined the nutrition content of fifty-eight ‘better-for-you’ children’s foods with FOP labels, and found that 84 percent failed to meet one or more nutrient criteria for fat, saturated fat, sugar, sodium, or fiber. Claiming Health underscores that the current system is broken, and companies can’t be counted on to regulate themselves.

The food and beverage industry has been fighting sound federal efforts to limit deceptive food marketing at every turn, as evidenced by their opposition to the recent Interagency Working Group (IWG) voluntary guidelines for foods marketed to children. With mounting evidence for a uniform FOP label, it is critical that the FDA move forward with developing proposed regulation based on today’s IOM recommendations, and not bow to industry pressure.

The food industry can—and should—do better.  Prevention Institute will continue to ask parents and advocates to join the thousands already calling for food marketing guidelines that put kids first by joining our campaign at www.preventioninstitute.org/notbuyingit.”

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