Earlier this year, manufacturers of packaged foods took a step in the right direction by rolling out a voluntary front-of-package labeling system called Nutrition Keys. But critics say the system, like the Smart Choices program that came before it (which has been discontinued), is no less confusing to consumers.
“There’s still a need for awareness and education about how to interpret the information to answer important questions such as how many calories is enough? Or too many?” says Moore.
A preliminary report by the IOM addresses some of these issues and recommends that front-of-package nutrition information be standardized and emphasize the items of most concern: calories, salt, saturated fat, and trans fats.
The IOM is also rallying for more reasonable serving sizes. For example, a can of nuts may boast “150 calories!” on the front, but flipping it over reveals there are actually 150 calories per serving, and that the small package holds seven servings.
Nutrition information is likely to start showing up in more places too. As part of the new health reform bill, restaurant chains with 20 or more locations nationwide are required to post calorie information for all the food they sell, which is important legislation given how often American families eat out.