Read ’Em and Eat

By Agnese Smith

In Nutrition

June 24, 2014

PDF Article

Simple front-of-package nutrition labeling could help combat obesity—but only if the food industry buys in and consumers pay attention.

A burger is a burger is a burger. Except when it’s not.

Stroll through any Marks & Spencer grocery store in Britain, and so long as you aren’t colour blind, you will see that a venison burger has less fat and salt than its made-of-beef counterpart. No need to work out percentages or possess an advanced nutrition degree.

In common with more than half of all food products sold in the U.K., the pre-prepared burgers sport a series of standard color-coded symbols that measure a product’s fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. So-called “traffic light” front-of-package symbols are designed to help consumers make informed decisions about what they stuff in their gobs.

Grocery shelves in America are also heaving with colors, ticks, stars, point scores and many other labels, each screaming out its own particular views on a product’s relative healthiness. That’s because shoppers are looking for guidance in a country where more than a quarter of young adults are too fat to serve in the military.

But unlike in the U.K., there’s no easy-to-read universal label that can be trusted by more or less everyone.

This may soon change.

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