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The nutritional labels on most of the food packages can be very difficult to decipher for the general public. To facilitate easy comprehension, the Institute of Medicine has called for a simplified labeling system, akin to the Energy Star labeling system.

The Institute of Medicine has Advised the Federal Regulators to Opt for a Simple Label on the Front of Food Packages

How many times you have picked up a food packet in the market deciding to buy only nutritional stuff for your family, and then replaced it on the shelf as you could not make out the head or the tail of the nutrition label? Food companies usually enlist the content per gram of the nutrients and their daily recommended value on the label.

But to go through all that stuff and then comprehend if the food is nutritive for your family can be quite an exasperating exercise for most of all. All of us, at some point or the other, have wished for a simplified label which could just tell us whether we should go for the product or not. Our wish may soon come true. The Institute of Medicine has advised the federal regulators to opt for a simple label on the front of food packages.


As per its recommendations, the label will just exhibit the total number of calories present in the food and have a star rating system based on its nutritive value. The recommendations have been submitted to the CDC, the Department of Agriculture and the FDA.

The Number of Stars would be Based on the Important Nutrients Most Likely to Cause Diseases

The Institute of Medicine has advised a labeling system similar to the Energy Star labels present on electrical equipment. One look at the label and the consumer knows about the energy efficiency of the product. Similarly, the label recommended by the institute would help the customer to ascertain at once whether the food product that he plans to buy is nutritive or not.

The number of stars would be based on the important nutrients most likely to cause diseases, namely, sugars, sodium and saturated or Trans fat. These nutrients have often been associated with diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular problems apart from obesity.

The more the content of these nutrients in the food product, the less the number of stars present on the label. This along with the total number of calories present in the food item will give a fair idea about the nutritive value of the food to the consumer. The less the number of stars on the label, the more unhealthy is it for consumption.


However, the group Grocery Manufacturers of America, which represents most of the big food companies, is not happy with the suggestions of the Institute of Medicine. It plans to continue with its Fact Up Front labeling plan, which enlists the various nutrients along with their content in grams and the percentage of daily recommended value that they would supply.

As far as consumers are concerned, they have welcomed the labeling system suggested by the institute as they find other labeling systems too confusing. According to the FDA, they are still assessing which labeling system to go ahead with and are in no hurry to replace the existing system with the one recommended by the institute.

  • “Label Plan Offered to Rate Food Nutrition”, by William Neuman, New York Times, published on October 20, 2011, accessed on November 3, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/business/a-plan-to-rate-nutrition-of-food-with-stars.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss
  • Photo courtesy of joelogon on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/3193671630