Front-of-package nutrition information has become front-of-mind, in advance of a White House summit on nutrition and health.
The conference, to be held later this month, will consider, among other things, whether to mandate that nutritional information be made available on the front panel of food and beverage packages. Public health advocates are pushing for such a mandate, resisted by industry groups.
Decisions to be made will include whether to make such a system mandatory or voluntary, which kinds of information to include, and how strong to make any warnings about harmful components.
Democrats have introduced legislation for mandatory front-of-package information. “People just don’t have the patience or the time to be detectives at store shelves, hunting for data that may be somewhere on the package,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told the Wall Street Journal.
The Consumer Brands Association helped launch a voluntary front-of-package information program, called Facts Up Front, in 2011. However, the association opposes any mandatory programs. Critics dismiss voluntary programs like Facts Up Front as whitewashing.
Five nations now mandate front-of-pack nutritional information. According to a recent study of Chilean consumers, market share for breakfast cereals that had calorie and sugar warnings experienced small but significant decreases in market share. In addition, some manufacturers began reformulating their products to come in below the thresholds that would trigger warnings.