The Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in late January unveiled a unified food industry front-of-package labeling program called Nutrition Keys. They associations -- one of which represents food processors and the other retailers -- called it “the most significant modernization of food labels since the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990.”
“Nutrition Keys is a fact-based approach that summarizes important nutrition information from the Nutrition Facts Panel in a clear, simple and easy-to-use format on the front of food and beverage packages,” the associations said. “The new icon and label changes adhere to current [FDA] guidelines and regulations, ensuring that consumers receive consistent and reliable information.”
The voluntary labeling program actually has a couple variations. The main one shows calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugars per serving, as well as the daily value percentages for saturated fat and sodium. Food packagers can choose to list up to two of eight "nutrients to encourage" that the associations characterize as important to healthy diets but under-consumed by the public: potassium, fiber, Vitamins A, C and D, calcium, iron and protein. To list one of these, the product has to contain a minimum of 10 percent of the nutrient's recommended daily value.
The associations hope the system is used by store brands as well as regional and national brands. With the approval by GMA’s board on Jan. 23, the vast majority of food and beverage processors already are on board, and they are expected to begin using the label as packaging changes allow.
Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama asked industry to develop a unified front-of-pack labeling system.