Group asks FDA for single labelling system

Nutrition lobby group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has called on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a unified 'healthy food' labelling scheme to ease consumer confusion with proprietary labelling systems.

The Washington DC-based group said the FDA should study Swedish and UK colour-coded schemes that rank foods on the basis of nutrient profiles and "solicit comments from the public about how a similar system should be structured here."

Most major food companies have 'healthy alert' labelling schemes, such as Kraft's 'Sensible Solution' and PepsiCo's 'SmartSpot,' but the CSPI said "consumers can easily be confused or misled since the various programmes have different aims and use inconsistent nutrition criteria."

In addition, the waters are muddied further by nongovernmental organizations like the American Heart Association, and sectors such as the dairy and fruits and vegetables industries that have their own product labels.

"The supermarket is teeming with competing 'healthy food' symbols that run the gamut from highly helpful to fatally flawed," said CSPI executive director Michael F Jacobson. "But a prominent and reliable symbol on the fronts of packages would be a tremendous help to those harried shoppers racing through the supermarket."

Senator Tom Harkin, the incoming chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee agreed: "Establishing a uniform system of nutrition symbols can help consumers make sense of the mountains of diverse and often conflicting information and advice."

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