Nutrition Facts Panel
Nutrition Facts Panel
Nutrition Facts Panel
Nutrition Facts Panel
Nutrition Facts Panel

‘Volunteers’ Not Needed

Sept. 30, 2022
Why a "voluntary" front-of-pack nutrition label would be useless.

The Biden administration is raising the possibility of a front-of-pack nutritional labeling system. And it’s making some people in the food industry nervous.

As part of a drive for sweeping reforms, the administration proposes to require consumers to be warned, up front, if a product they’re thinking of buying (or have already bought) is especially high in calories, fat, sugar, salt and possibly other nutrients.

The Consumer Brands Association, which naturally has been watching all these proposals closely, doesn’t like that idea at all. A spokesperson recently called for “voluntary interpretive front-of-pack labeling schemes” as an alternative to mandates.

This raises a question, for me at least:

Isn’t “voluntary interpretive front-of-pack labeling schemes” just another name for “graphics”?

In other words, we’d just be telling food marketers that they can put anything they want on their front labels (as long as it’s not provably false), and they if they want to add nutrition information in some sort of standardized format, it’s up to them.

It’s not hard to imagine what would happen under such a plan. Foods with low negative nutrients would crow about it on their front labels, while those high in calories etc. would make consumers have to keep crawling through the Nutrition Facts panel on the back or side to get that info. Front-of-pack nutritional information would just become another marketing tool.

A "voluntary” system would be as useless as a news service that vowed to report nothing but “good news.” It might make some people feel good, but it wouldn’t tell anyone what they really need to know.

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.