FDA Labeling Plan Will Fail
Unless It Is Mandatory

Stoplight labels 10.22.09 When it comes to deceptive marketing, you have to give the food industry credit for sheer balls. Did manufacturers really think they could create a labeling system that considered Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops a “Smart Choice?”

Apparently so, but it seems the Food and Drug Administration is (sort 0f) running out of patience. The agency announced this week it will consider setting standards for front-of-the-package nutrition labels, reports The New York Times. One possible outcome: those labels will contain bad news about the food products instead of only happy half-truths.

Apparently, the FDA is interested in a British labeling system that mimics traffic symbols for fat, saturated fats, sugars and salt. The system has been successful in England and Australia according to Grist.

I’m going to guess that Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops would receive a red light for sugar, but any system would be enhanced if unrefined starches and excessive chemical content were also rated.

One flagrant flaw in the FDA’s move is that such reporting would be voluntary. Only those companies wanting to use the FDA system, which could be in place by the end of the year, would have to follow the agency’s rules.

Under such a system, it’s likely that manufacturers will only sign up if they make healthy products, which will invalidate the entire worth of the stoplight system. The FDA giveth hope; the FDA taketh hope.

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Unless It Is Mandatory

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