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Highlighting calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium in food packaging nutrition rating systems needed

November 17, 2015

"Calories, saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium present the most serious diet-related risks to people's health, and many Americans consume far too much of these nutrients," said committee chair Ellen Wartella, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Communication, professor of psychology, and director, Center on Media and Human Development, School of Communication, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. "As Americans grapple with increasing rates of serious health problems connected to their diets, it's important that the nutritional information they receive is clear, consistent, and well-grounded in nutrition science."

Some organizations and nutrition experts have called for nutrition rating systems to also focus on the sugars added to some products during manufacturing. The committee concurred that both added and naturally occurring sugars contribute to the caloric content of foods and beverages and overconsumption of high-calorie products can lead to obesity. Highlighting calories per serving in nutrition rating systems would address this concern.

The committee will next review research on how consumers understand and use different types of nutritional information and issue a second report recommending ways to optimize the usefulness of front-of-package nutrition rating systems and symbols. This report will also include the committee's assessment of the pros and cons of having a single, standardized front-label food guidance system that is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Source: National Academy of Sciences