Food Makers Devise Own Label Plan

The food industry said it created a plan at the urging of Michelle Obama, but she gave it only tepid approval.

Comments: 125

  1. And so it goes...the food industry is not serious about doing the right thing!

  2. It's about style over substance for the food makers. I guess it's easier for them to spin a label than to make their product transparently obvious about what it contains. Remember when cigarettes were touted as satisfying your "T" zone?

    You go Michelle... spinach gave someone besides Popeye some strong arms!

  3. I'd like to see a complete accounting of all the ingredients. In particular, I think that any partially-hydrogenated fat should disqualify the food as "0 trans-fat". Less than 1 gram/serving is still too much trans-fat; any at all is damaging!

  4. The food growers associations have 0% altruism and obese profiteering built into these new nutrition labels.

    However, the public is no fool to see they are piggybacking on what the First lady said. For no matter how they spin it they are simply wolves in sheep's clothing.

  5. Big Mamma again with her nose in her children's business because they're so stupid they can't be trusted to make appropriate choices.

  6. Between this nonsense and the food traceability foolishness, the govt. is going to making food too expensive to buy. But then it turns into a supply-side approach to ending obesity, so I guess the nanny state wins either way. A post at

  7. The breakfast cereal shown in the photo is nothing but junk food labeled to look nutritious. Among other things that make it junk food, it's made from refined grains and consists mostly of refined carbohydrates, salt and sugar. The nutritional value of the fiber is negligible and, in sum, the product is a confection. If not for the government-mandated nutrition content label, I'd be unable to determine whether it's nutritious or not.

  8. If it comes in a box with labeling, you probably shouldn't be eating it anyway! And there's nothing wrong with ice cream, as long as it's homemade from whole, organic milk and cream. Americans should eat more (pastured) animal fats and fewer carbohydrates. Turn the food pyramid upside down!

  9. Leave it to America's corporate criminals and traitors to continue to lie, cheat, and steal.

  10. "The F.D.A. has said it was interested in a British labeling system using a traffic signal logo to show favorable (green) and unfavorable (red) nutrient content. Industry, however, has resisted such a display, which it fears might drive away consumers."

    Why are we always so ready to cave in for what is patently against the interest of our own society?

    Britain has the right idea, and we should learn from it. The food industry will be fine, it will just have to adjust to selling real nutrition instead of peddling cheap and unhealthy chemicals for short term profit. It may lose some profits along the way, but the country will benefit.

    We just need to insist on what is sane.

  11. According to the American Diabetes Association 8% of Americans are diabetic and the most thing for them is the Carbohydrate content. Without that you don't know how much insulin to inject to balance the carbs. So the proposed labeling is a major fail.

  12. Certainly a step in the right direction. Now, if we can just put similar labels on TV broadcasts, spelling out the contents of 'news', 'opinion' 'advertising' and 'fiction', we could perhaps start to balance the unhealthy diet of infotainment that we consume.

  13. Wow is this ever a waste of taxpayer dollars. All this info is already on the Nutrition Facts label. So now it has to be in not one but two places on the package? If so, the FAT portion of the new label should show ALL the fat,not just the saturated kind. No wonder people have a hard time deciphering food labels--they seem to be deliberately misleading!

  14. — May I have an obamaburger?
    — I’m required to tell you that it contains 85% fat, 14,360mg sodium, which increase your risk of heart disease and obesity, but on the positive side, it contains the recommended daily dose of threonine and vitamin M…
    — Will it raise my taxes?
    — No, but you have to sign this acknowledgement before I can give it to you.
    — OK… and give me some obamachips and a CobamaCola, king size.
    — That comes to 4 million, 532 thousand, 432 calories, sir. I have to check with the manager before I can you give you something like that.
    — I’ll wait.
    (a couple minutes later)
    — The manager says OK, but you are legally required to purchase a side order of Obamacare with it.
    — Obamacare? Are you crazy, man! Obamacare is going to kill my job, and Rush Limbaugh says it’s bad for my health too!

  15. I don't think any amount of labeling is going to help someone who thinks ice cream is healthy.

  16. Food and home product labeling has undergone some very disturbing changes over the last few years. There are many products that no longer list ingredients at all. We have returned to the "snake oil" era, where there is no list of ingredients on products, and we have to trust advertising claims instead.

    This wasn't the case years ago, when comprehensive ingredients lists were present that helped us understand and compare ingredient labels for things like medicines, cleaners, and various other home products.

    I don't know when the law was changed, but in many cases, there are only vague references to "spices," or "this detergent contains a surfactant," as opposed to a precise list of ingredients on many products.

    What happened? How did various industries get away with this omission? Who changed the law? When?

    I'm afraid that few have noticed that ingredients lists are fading away from so many products that we are supposed to trust, only to learn the hard way when some kind of emergency arises.

    I would implore legislators to reverse this terrible trend and require full, standardized, comprehensive ingredients lists on products that are sold to consumers in this country, once again.

  17. Now Michele Obama is going to regulate our food labels? We're becoming like one of those third world dictatorships where the all-knowing power that be shapes life as we know it.

  18. Let us face the facts.
    The food industry is out to have all people eating their junk.
    The label must show all ingredients in grams per unit say a kilogram to make it clear. Full stop!
    Forbid the nothing saying "nutrition" figures as they are just window-dressing and do not say anything at all.
    Such ideas will obviously be hated by the industry but exist already in various countries and are spreading more and more.
    It is time to end the food lobbies dictat.

  19. The food industry is going to continue to produce and market junk, and no matter how they label that junk, junk the junk remains.

    Junk is profitable. A whole generation of people have grown-up on junk and they are both addicted to and reluctant to give up their junk.

    The food industry knows this fact, and they exploit the same even as they mouth platitudes to the contrary.

    Another generation or two are necessary before an entirely new and health-conscious population demands healthy food. The industry will respond with higher prices to maintain profits, and another battle will be fought.

  20. Is this whole thing about putting this information on the front rather than the back of labels? I've been checking this information for years and it's right on the back of food packages. Am not quite sure what this is all about. But it sure isn't anything "new."

  21. I need this to say how many servings are in a package.

  22. Big Food will do everything they can to manipulate us into ingesting the 4000+ calories per person of the cheapest fats, sugars, and carbs that allow them to maximize profit. The industry regulates itself to maximize profit, which is THEIR corporate health. If we care about OUR health, we must regulate them.

  23. This whole exercise shows little understanding by the food industry of basic nutrition. Fat that is an unrearranged substance is actually good for us. Fat has a few calories, but basically is not the cause of weight gain or hardening of the arteries. But anything that spikes your insulan is, like sugar and refined carbs. The way the human body reacts to non foods that the industrial food strains to make taste good, is the real problem. The fake food, the plants grown on worn out and improperly nourished soils cannot provide what is needed to our bodies, so we enter a starvation mode, and no matter what or how much we eat, our bodies will store fat. The poor are starving, despite their alarming obesity rates. The food that is available to them is simply starving them so their bodies are putting on weight in an attempt to make up for it. Our bodies stores trace minerals and vitamins in our fat. Michelle Obama is right to not be too impressed. Even with contents revealed, it is still a shell game. Where is the real food we need to nourish ourselves? Is it from Africa, South America or some other far away place so far that the food is already old when it arrives on our grocery shelves and thus even less nutritious? Americans eat 12 pounds of preservatives a day on average. Are preservatives carefully represented too on these labels? How about the pesticides and irradiated do do on everything? How about the puss from infected teats on cows that gets in our milk because the cows are on hormones by Monsanto? How cruel, for all of us and the cows. We get infections that can't be treated because the antibiotics have morphed themselves into impossible to kill organizms. Both antibiotics and preservatives are well hidden in our food very often. People in hospitals are dying of infections no antibiotic has been created for yet because of such rampant use of antibiotics. I don't blame her tepid response. I'm not so thrilled either. Fresh locally and responsibly grown food is the way to go. I've given up on the organic label unless it is in a big box store, as it has been another way for the big guys to undercut the small farmer. So now I just ask where and how it was grown. Often they do use organic methods, but is way to expensive to be certified. I want to know what I am eating. Go Michelle!!!

  24. Come on, meet them half-way. They sell food; we can't expect them only to advertise the riskier aspects that people "may want to avoid." What's wrong with revealing the fact that ice cream has lots of calcium? It does. That's a fact--more information, so that consumers have as clear a picture as possible. Saying that people will eat more ice cream than they should, because they're unfairly duped into thinking it has "redeeming qualities", seems insulting to people's intelligence. I think ice cream as plenty of redeeming qualities--it's delicious, celebratory, and yes, a great source of calcium. They key is moderation.

  25. I am buying whole foods only with just these exceptions: cheese, energy bars, and tofu. And even then the cheese is imported from Europe. I have had it with the US food industry's bad faith and manipulations, and I see no reason to help it stay in business with my consumer dollars.

  26. The White House can't do anything for americans anymore..those days are long gone. Shareholders will never agree to first lady's label aka special interest.

    Grow your own food and buy local. Its the only way..

  27. the powerful cartels that control food in the US, alongside the covertly corrupt FDA and USDA entities, make it an impossible task to make food labelling honest, transparent and correct. Keep dreaming Mrs. First Lady....

  28. That's wonderful... almost a textbook application of Microsoft's "Embrace, extend, and exterminate" monopolistic approach toward Internet standards in the mid 90s.

    They embrace the idea of nutritional labeling, extend it with their own additions, and so (potentially) exterminate its usefulness.

    It is at least a little more subtle than Verizon's more efficient "embrace then exterminate" approach toward the FCC's network neutrality rules which it helped draft and is now suing over.

    They way these giant companies can dance rings around the agencies that are supposed to regulate them is impressive. Perhaps government really is too large (slow, unresponsive).

  29. Self-regulation by industry. Gee, that's worked out so well in the past. From the financial industry meltdown, to the gasline explosion in CA.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  30. I think it is time for Michelle to stay out of our business. I doubt she eats healthy all the time. We ALL know her husband doesn't. No more government control over us...period!

  31. 10 mgs tar, 5 mgs nicotine, with 100% of your daily fiber and Vitamin C!

  32. We can depend on Michelle to stand strong for the Truth.

  33. This means nothing if the American citizens have no idea what it means!

  34. The American food industry is mostly to be blamed for the epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and coming diabetes 2; yet these folks keep on mixing the cheapo ingredients: sugar (10¢/lb); starch (5¢/lb) and grease (7¢/lb) and making a mint out of the mixture by adding flavors produced along the New Jersey Turnpike Chemical Canyons.

    In the meanwhile $4.00/lb apples and other fresh fruit and vegetables go unaffordable.

    A fellow of Free Market persuasions will dispute these and invoke the free will theory for sure. I have one thing to say about it: if the market place is saturated by junk food, search and actual cost of the real food becomes unsustainable and eventually driven out of the market place. (Gresham modified).

    Now, they will not show what their junk contains in the name of nutrition! Why am I not surprised.

  35. Note that food additives have no place on the label. Like most people, I can figure out on my own which foods have too much sugar or fat or salt. I'm not a complete idiot. However, it's the food additives that worry me, and I generally try to avoid foods that have any. I know these additives make life easier for the food industry, in terms of shelf-life, perceived notions of aesthetic appeal, and shipping, but I don't want to eat them. Also, my consumption of food should not revolve around what is convenient for the food industry.

    Genetic modification, plastic packaging containing hormones, factory farms, monoculture, government subsidies, exploitation of human weaknesses for salt and fat, deceptive marketing and advertising especially to children, worldwide... not only convenient, but profitable to shareholders.

    However, I like to eat fresh vegetables preferably without pesticides, meat raised with respect for the animals, genetic modification left up to breeding, farming centered around local farmers' best interests and local market conditions, and if none of this was corporatized, you wouldn't hear any complaints from me.

    Obviously that's not what we've got, as we can see in this article. As usual, too much concern for profit and PR, too little concern for the people you are supposed to serve with your company.

    Yes, I said serve. That would be the operational word. Serve. Not exploit. Enhance. Not prey upon.

    Interesting how American businesses, with all their MBAs and marketing, can be so smart, yet so stupid about what really matters. It's the fundamental, simple things that they miss.

  36. These new food labels are wonderful disregarding one fact: the ingredient list seems to hold all the secrets of a food's REAL quality. Food processors and the people in the FDA should work towards making the ingredient lists bigger so that people can spot deleterious additives (such as MSG, high fructose corn syrup, etc.). Although, this will not happen. What is the point of having bigger nutrition labels when a food is highly processed and therefore contains less nutrients? Having the grams of fat is not as important as knowing what kind of fats they are (monounsatured?, polyunsaturated?, saturated?, trans fatty acids?) There needs to be much more transparency between the producers of food and consumers who are many times left in the dark.

  37. Sounds like the food industry is taking initiative in putting another nutritional label in the front of its packaging. One of the anonymous quotes said “ice cream would be deemed healthy because it would have calcium in it.” Well yes, there is ice cream such as coconut, almond and what other concoction that can make it healthy. If private industry can take the lead as public bureaucracy hits a stalemate, let the companies market it and eventually public awareness can grease up political gears.

  38. I agree that all the ingredients should be displayed, whether on the front or the back. I always check the nutrition label in the store before I buy something.

    In the end, we have to be educated consumers. All of us.

  39. And what is the size of a serving? And when was anyone satisfied with just one serving.
    The label is meaningless because each manufacturer (notice I didn't say producer) of food and each type of food has it's own serving size.

  40. Trust! It's all about trust.

    The industry that says we *need* bottled water; that Fruit Loops are health food.

    Yeah, trust. Brought to you by high fructose corn syrup.

  41. Just another attempted end-run around the Food and Drug Administration. Old Teddy Roosevelt must be retchin' in the grave!

  42. "Foods" that require labels are suspect anyway. If you're relying on packaged goods to get the bulk of your macro- and micro-nutrients, you're in trouble. (A treat here and there is fine. Ice-cream is not evil!) I agree with the poster above that we need a complete rendering of all the ingredients, including the method of agriculture for each. Want something groundbreaking and actually helpful? How about a scale that indicates the level of processing the end product has gone through, say 0 for unprocessed and 5 for something that has been mechanically refined, chemically treated, heated, nuked, stripped of original nutrients, artificially colored, fortified, preserved ... etc.? People are already so utterly confused by nutrition advice. One simple rule is to eat as little processed food as possible. So why not just make a scale with a few guidelines that say the majority of calories should come from 0's and 1's, and save the 5's for very occasional consumption?

  43. Ice cream and sugar are healthy, in moderation. Too many people think any thing pleasant should be forbidden. So they advocate against the harmless teaspoon of sugar in cooked vegetables and advocate stupid diet regimens. Bravo food companies.

  44. The underlying attitude is that people are too stupid to know what they're eating. What a waste of time, money and (presumed) creativity! Instead, let's figure out how to improve our schools, for example, and stop micromanaging people's lives.

  45. I am very troubled by some of the comments here. Concluding that all manufacturers of food are "bad" is just plain crazy talk. I am not sure when we became so negative as a people, but we need to rethink our civility. We also need to rethink about how we view our fellow citizens. I don't assume that the person buying a package of licorice in line in front of me is "stupid" simply because of their food choices or because I wouldn't buy it. When we start to cheer for personal responsibility we will have turned a corner. The obese person is responsible for his/her situation not because the food was wrong, but because they could not put down their fork and spoon.

    I appreciate that Barry may still carry some of the scars from having been an overweight child, but I wish he and his wife would quit trying to remake us to suit them. Most people work these issues out in private with their spiritual adviser or therapist. Just a thought.

  46. How about government subsidizes apple, carrot, broccoli and spinach growers instead of corn, which finds its way in high-fructose syrup form into every single processed/packaged food?

    When fresh fruits and vegetables are cheaper than cheese doodles, health/obesity problems solved. As long as junk food is cheaper than real food, nothing will change.

  47. I want to see nutrition labeling that gives a breakdown of carbs (sugars/fiber), protein, fats (saturated/unsaturated), AND more nutrients than we currently see. I want to know not only about Vitamins A, C, iron, and calcium, but the others most significant in the food, including minerals. The food industry needs to come clean.

  48. This whole program is nonsense.

    All this information is already on the back of the package and has been there for 30 years.

    The problem is that you people out there are too stupid to eat what the "experts" tell you to. The fact that the "experts" seem to change their opinions about every 5 years, well that's "science" (or so they say!).

    If it tastes good, it's good for you. If you can't see your feet when you look down, go for a walk!

  49. The food industry is really being short-sighted in this issue. Just think how much extra food all those people will eat if they live years longer! Profits, food industry, profits! Go for it!

  50. The example label shows 360mg of salt as being 15% of recommended dietary intake - wow! That's saying a person is supposed to eat 2,400mg of salt per day! That's way high - a recommended daily salt intake should be around 1000mg. As long as the recommended daily amounts are too high, these labels are useless.

    I've made 50%-75% of my food intake fresh fruits and vegetable - whole, real, nutritious foods (strawberries, blackberries, radishes, leafy green lettuce, kale, etc). I eat less and less and less over-processed, lacking-in-nutrition, over-salted/sugary, high-calorie food. And my health keeps improving as a result.

  51. Hey Mikwag and Roy: If I have the choice of having the country forced into a war with Iraq I didn't want and didn't need, or food producers forced to label the nutritional content of their products I'll take the latter, please.

  52. Now Michele Obama is going to regulate our food labels? We're becoming like one of those third world dictatorships where the all-knowing power that be shapes life as we know it. Roy, #18
    Oy gevalt, Roy. Take a breath. I'm not sure why this has to be explained but First Ladies have no power to regulate anything, so you can crack another beer and relax. Every modern First Lady takes up a cause, such as Laura Bush's efforts to get children to read more (Oh my god! She's going to regulate what our kids read!) and Lady Bird Johnson's Clean America efforts (Oh my god! She's going to tell us that we can't throw garbage out of our car windows! We're becoming a dictatorship!)

    So, you know, really, it's no big thing.

  53. This is from the same group that last tried to claim that Fruit Loops was a "Smart Choice" because it was "better than" a doughnut. The reality is that if Walmart is going one way, and any of these food "manufacturers" wants to sell their merchandise to WalMart, they will have to meet WalMart requirements. They will respond to that much faster than any FDA requirement.

    It's really hard to comprehend the concept of manufacturing food... to quote Michael Pollan: "If it grow on a plant you can eat it, if it's made in a plant, don't"

  54. Yet another good, overdue idea being scuttled by the food corporation executives to increase profits for their wealthy stockholders while an unsuspecting consumer dies of heart disease! What buffoons and charlatans!

  55. I read a few years ago that a target caloric intake of 3500 a day was the magic number for profitability.
    Oddly since the shift to a "low fat" diet rich in carbs we have witnessed two major changes: increased life style health conditions (the medical INDUSTRY calls them diseases) and run away medical costs to treat them. Perhaps the food industry should be included in this so called health care reform?
    Frankly, I am tired of subsidizing both with not only my tax dollars but increased costs to access health care myself.

  56. What's missing is the portion size. Most portions are smaller than people think. It also varies greatly..especially with cereal.

  57. Hey, if food processors are selling real food, whey do they have to tell you there's nutritional value in their product? Real food is nutritious -- processed food is not. It's so simple.

  58. You got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative...

    It is a good idea to have something that is clear and easy to understand. That doesn't mean that consumers will use the information. Food City has recently added a grading system to some of the products on the shelf. It is useful. Some items one always thought were of high nutritional value, apparently are not as good as some items not so well rated. Closer examination of the labels usually point out significantly higher levels of fat, salt and/or sugars.

    Looking at the sample labels, I can understand Michelle's tepid response. It still is progress, and we need a good advocate, like Mrs. Obama on the front lines.

  59. If we want our population to eat a healthier diet, it's time to subsidize healthy prepared foods, and for everyone, not just for those who are eligible for food stamps. Preparing food takes time, and those who are too busy, unskilled at cooking, or, frankly, too lazy, to do it properly should be given an alternative to purchasing prepared foods that are cheaper, but not healthy. As anyone who has modified his/her diet knows, unhealthy foods begin to taste too greasy or too sugary after a period of consumption of healthier foods, so the palate can clearly be reeducated to prefer healthier options.

    Bravo to Mrs. Obama for taking on the food manufacturing industry.

  60. These "voluntary" guidelines are always measures to stave off regulation so that food companies can continue to mislead consumers.

    They always find enough wiggle room to mislead. For example, even when the food industry was told that they needed to show saturated in the food they institituted industry guidelines that said that if the amount of saturated fats was below a certain weight (not percentage of the food) it did not have to be listed. Then they simply changed the serving size that the weight was calculated from to make sure that the weight of the saturated fell below that amount. Therefore, for hydrogenated cookies the serving size became one cookie and the packaging could therefore say "no saturated fat." Although many consumers report that they will usually eat an entire sleeves of cookies (24) in one sitting giving them a considerable dose of saturated fat from a food whose package says "no saturated fat."

    The same problem will continue with this "four panel" health label system.

    With the new system, if you buy a healthy frozen dinner that contains a chicken breast, vegetables and rice; it is undeniably only ONE serving: a meal for one person to be eaten in one sitting. The amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar (for this one serving meal) will all be higher than (or comparable to) the amount listed for "one serving" of potato chips or chocolate chip cookies.

    So according to this new industry voluntary laeling program, the PERCEIVED amount of calories, fats, sodium and sugars in a decent meal can be seen as worse than the calories, fats, sodium and sugars in the unhealthy snacks.

    Once again, having our standards of regulation written by the industry rather than a genuine third party is causing the very confusion that these standards were meant to eliminate.

    If we were able to develop a truly uniform standard that did not allow for manufacture manipulation of data (currently through serving size) this could be helpful. For example, if everything was based on percentage weight of total food than we could compare one product against another. But the fact that it will be based on manufacturer determined serving size makes this useless.

    The standards that the courts use in determining packaging lawsuits is "Does this cause confusion of the facts in the mind of the consumer?" This new program, once again, does not meet that standard.

  61. It's simple, eschew processed food; eat a plant-based whole foods diet.
    check out Marc Katz vegan on youtube

  62. Some myths we should stop believing really, really soon:

    1.) All ice creams are bad for us and all strawberries are good for us. Ice cream using milk from a grass-fed cow and unrefined cane sugar is infinitely healthier than a strawberry sprayed with toxic pesticides.

    2.) Saturated fat leads to cardiovascular disease. How this belief went from a very, very debatable topic to governmental policy in three decades is baffling. It is based on specious, cherry-picked studies, all to fit Ancel Keys's hypothesis. The author Gary Taubes does a masterful job of exposing this sham in "Good Calories, Bad Calories." In addition, many indigenous peoples ate diets loaded with saturated fats and had no incidences of heart disease (or any other Western disease). They only got sick when they started eating the Western diet (refined flours, sugars and grains).

  63. To comment #26 (Blacklight): You should stay away from energy bars and tofu as well. There's a good chance the energy bars are loaded with crap (yes, even the "organic" ones) and the soy we consume in this country is a far cry from the fermented soy eaten by Asian cultures. Many consider it just as dangerous as refined rice, flour, sugar, etc. And not to mention almost all the soy grown in this country comes from genetically engineered seed.

  64. Allowing the food industry to write the rules and regulations is a receipe for disaster. For example, manufactures already mislead consumers everyday when they trumpet "low fat" on their front labels but neglect to add "high in sugar." And you wonder why America's hips are getting wider? Most low-fat "diet" foods are pure junk. McDonald's is healthier.

  65. There are two on-label statements which I look for: Country of Origin and Contents. If either is missing I will not purchase the product. Country of Origin is difficult sometimes because of companies which use the "Distributed by" tag in front of a USA address as if it were the same "Product of." But I am a tireless preacher of the difference everytime I am in a market isle. Three years ago, most folks didn't understand. Today more than half do. Yep.

  66. Listing ingredients in any form and reducing fat and sugar will not change the basic fact: all processed food is bad. The whole ¨food industry¨ (with few exception perhaps) is a fraud and must be destroyed. But no Michele or Obama are willing or able to do this. ¨Food industry¨ is the foundation of American capitalism, unneeded and harmful goods promoted by subliminal advertisement (brainwashing). Even from pure economical standpoint it is more economical to buy whole food and cook it at home every day fresh.

  67. Food manufactures are the first to realize, it is going to take time, to sell people tasteless food. The two ingredients we need to avoid, are key ingredients to taste. Salt and fat. Salt also is a preservative. Little progress seems to be made at retail Junk food restaurants as MacDonald hopes you buy a Big Mac not a salad. Restaurants will use as much salt as necessary, to keep customers interested in coming back. I travel quite a bit and food on the road is salty.

  68. There is no way that labeling will make a difference. In the US, large corporations have taken over a good part of the food industry. Massive amounts of manufactured products and fast foods have glutted the market. Whole sections of supermarkets are filled with soda and snacks. These products are not only sold in mega stores such as Walmart and Sam's Club but drugstore chains and dollar stores. This is all about marketing empty cheaply made food to the public. There is a whole industry dedicated to taste enhancers. It is a hoax. We have bought into the cheap and plentiful, the quick fix of take out and preprepared food. There is no instant solution. It requires effort to seek out green markets and be selective to choose food business that do the same. If it seems to cost more, perhaps we should eat less.

  69. Why would the food industry abolish the 3 elements of food addiction which are fat, salt and salt? They hardly care about obesity in the US, and are more or less promoting diabetes, not health.

  70. Any product with such a label is not a whole food.

    Don't buy and eat products.

    Buy, eat and enjoy whole, unadulterated foods.

  71. The food industry's main interest is, and will continue to be, making a profit and not anyone's health. When will we be able to count on the government to protect the health of consumers and not the health of the food industry?

  72. The food industry has managed to make some of the current labelling laws pretty slippery--if not outright misleading, eg.
    "Products containing less than 5 g of fat show amounts rounded to the nearest 0.5 g. Amounts less than 0.5 g are rounded to 0 g. For example, if a product contains 0.45 g of trans fat per serving, and the package contains 18 servings, the label would show 0 g of trans fat, even though the product actually contains a total of 8.1 g of trans fat."

  73. The food industry is the cause of obesity? Guess they forced all those people to overeat. I live in a town that is blessed with fruits and vegetables all year 'round, most more than affordable, but when I'm in the grocery store at the check-out line the people in front and behind have their carts full of chips and soda (not diet!), processed foods and lots of sweets. No wonder this is one of the fattest cities in America. Yeah, the food industry made them do it!

  74. I only wish the food industry would not label "Food" for non-foods. Check ingredients in your pet food - there's no sugars added. So stop labeling sugar as "Food".

    If Walmart is serious about keeping America healthy then Walmart should stop selling any edible items in a box or a can.

    Walmart executives' responsibility is to make as much profit as they can - not to keep you and I healthy, which, btw, is our own responsibility.

  75. There is nothing wrong with ice cream, per se. There might be if you eat too much of it or if it's loaded up with all sorts of things that don't really belong in ice cream (emulsifiers, etc.).

    We should be able to know what's in our food products. It should also be clear to see if they contain genetically modified or genetically engineered foods. Let us make the decision as to whether we want to eat them or not. If there's nothing wrong with GMO or GE, what is the industry afraid of?

  76. The print article says the food industry (that expression gives one the shudders and pretty much sums up in two words what's wrong with this picture!) gave up the "Smart Choices" campaign to push Froot Loops as healthful food choices, but the TV adverts are still running and the labels are still on the packages.

    I read labels. I'm very careful of my diet, and yes, I enjoy my food. Moliere was exaggerating some when he said that one should eat to live, not live to eat; that's like saying sex should be only for procreation. Phooey on that. But somewhere along the way Americans have gotten yet another of the many boneheaded ideas that define the American character, this one being that "nutritious" and "tasty" are mutually exclusive qualities.

    Among the posts so far, I note "the usual gang of idiots" (Mad Magazine's invaluable coinage) inveighing against the government's intrusion into their lives. #5, #6, #18: first off, these are labels. All they do is give you information. No one can force you to read it or follow it, no matter how much they dumb it down. However, without the information, you can't make any choices. Second, all you have to do is visit an elementary school and see all the little lardbags to establish that, no, they can't intelligently supervise their diet. Now, I personally don't care about their health, as long as I don't get stuck with the bill for their care.

    Can you imagine the reaction today if the President tried to introduce a national fitness initiative such as JFK's? The American gene pool has deteriorated ... or maybe it's all that junk food ... sad, sad, sad.

  77. The main thing I have been looking for is hydrogenated, Mono-sodium glutamate, petroleum, and for more look up your own list of suspect ingredients. None of that mentioned in the food industry label though is there? How did that happen?

    For example the sausage and hot dog makers should label the rat parts per million as deemed acceptable by the USDA standards; fecal bacteria counts in/on many foods; genetically altered base foods; amount of diet for herbivorous grazers carnivorously fed the bones and unusable by humans animal parts thereby lowering food producers feed costs and the ever so important bottom line.

    Even an ingredients country of origin would be better than what they are proposing. At least we would know who might be urinating and expectorating in our food products before they ship to us.

    So it seems that they, (the food industry), have, by a long shot, missed the mark with the labeling program again.

    Perhaps the food industry thinks that this labeling tactic will help them avoid greater scrutiny to the ingredients section. Of course, that would only make me sound cynical towards multinational food producers who seem to be merely seeking a way to bolster profits at the expense of our human evolution and common health!

  78. The trouble with labeling is that there is a segment of the population that wants to dictate to others what they should eat. They will never be satisified with anything other than labels that say prepared fast foods foods are bad, and organic foods are good. As the ad campaign says, milk is murder. I know vegetarians and vegans, and how they lead their lives is their business. Let them leave me to lead my life the way I want. I love fast food. It is tasty and it is filling, and I really don't care how they make it. It is wonderful. So, please, get off my back and let me eat what I want.

  79. Ask your AG to sue the food industry for the costs of healthcare for the diseases their products cause. Note that around 35% of adult Americans are projected to be diabetic by 2050; the perps are going to pay for it.

  80. Food processors have yet to provide any evidence that they place the health of their ultimate customers, you and me, ahead of the financial health of their shareholders. Left alone, as a number of commenter’s have suggested or implied, should we expect the behavior of the industry to change on its own volition? What a foolish thought. Yet it is in the public interest that the industry changes its practices that deliver unhealthful food to us. It really is only through correct government policy and action that the situation can be improved.

    Somehow Michelle Obama and those who banded around her persuaded Wal-Mart to an action voluntarily that will force a meaningful improvement in the nutritional safety (safety IS the issue) because the effect of Wal-Mart’s decision, which is specific to the foods that they sell under their own label, will spill over to others. And this same activism at least has persuaded the food processing industry to make a modest yet inadequate improvement in labeling. Perhaps we can expect more from activism. But I think that it will take the force of regulation to adequately deal with food safety. We have the agencies to do this but they have been asleep at the switch. For example, there is overwhelming evidence that genetically modified foods, including the meats and dairy products produced from animals nourished on genetically modified feeds, are injurious to our health. Most consumers have no practical way to avert this risk, even if they recognize it, since the FDA has chosen not to require the labeling of such foods. Why no warning of food labels?

    Another risk we face is the ubiquitous presence of glutamates (think MSG and it relations) introduced to foods as they are processed. While the presence of these substances often is indicated on food labels, there is no warning of the well documented danger to health that they represent. Why has the FDA not required it? Why has it not banned the substance?

    By now we all know that high fructose corn syrup (aka corn sugar), which is notoriously used by the beverage industry as a sweetener and unabashedly reported on their labels, is not an ordinary sugar. Research my responsible scientists, including medical scientists, has produced convincing evidence of the extraordinary danger of this substance, which can be found in many processed foods including just about all bakery products. Why no warning by the FDA?

    Something is wrong with our government if we have to rely on activism to force positive change in food safety.

  81. It is not clear from the article the nutrition label will be continued. If the nutrition label is omitted, I can name about 6 popular non-fad diets that will be severely affected. These diets depend on this information for their programs.

    Plus the tiny print of additives beneath the nutrition label is very important to persons with allergies like dyes, or preservatives, or even rare gene and compromised immune systems.

  82. If it comes in a box/package/bag/can/jar delve deeper and find out what it's made of before you eat it or feed it to someone you love. Be skeptical. If it's whole food it's probably ok, as long as you wash it well and cook it properly.

  83. The illustration is very confusing. It implies that the label will be restricted to the "bad" stuff when in fact it will not.

  84. The experience with nutrition data on restaurant menus suggests that all the labels in the world - no matter how large, where placed, what info - will do little to change consumer behavior. I've changed my order when reading the nutrition data, but I think I am in the minority. I always make a point to mention that I am glad to have the nutrition data, and waiters and restaurant managers always seem surprised to hear it.

    I really don't think the problem is a lack of knowledge. People KNOW that they need to eat more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, less saturated and transfat, less sugar/simple carbs. You would have to be living under a rock for the past five years not to know that because it is in every magazine, every newspaper, every TV news and talk show, and all over the internet. There is no one out there who thinks that junk food is good for them, even if fortified with some vitamin or micronutrient. Calorie counts may help in that people who really want to practice portion control will have a better idea what a portion of a given size contains.

    No one needs to be told that eating a stick of butter, a pint of ice cream, or a bag of chips or cookies is not healthy. They don't need to be told that junk food is full of things that are not healthy. They need the will power not to eat it.

  85. The Corporations that manufacture the packaged food in the USA do not allow their families to consume its nutritionally worthless crap...

  86. This is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The "food" industry has been offering garbage for generations, and Americans have been happily scarfing it up, labeling (right on the back of packages) notwithstanding. The results are evident in clinics nation-wide.

    Americans are completely ignorant of basic nutrition (which used to be taught in such antiquated classes as health and home economics) and are easily fooled by corporate misinformation, bizarre diets, and the medical industry's quick-fixes like Lipitor. They have little interest in learning about and preparing fresh food themselves (too much work, they'd miss their TV shows) and so their palates have been trained to confuse salt, sugar and hydrogenated fat with taste. Voila! Enjoy those insulin injections!

  87. It is worth remembering that the "food industry" feeds excrement to farm animals, then sells the meat in the supermarket. There is no label on the package telling us this because there is no legal requirement for it. There were no ingredients listed on any food product packages at all until Congress mandated it. The food industry in not in business to look out for the public good., and it would be naive to expect them to do so voluntarily.

  88. Once again, the moneygrubbers want their bucks rather than what is beneficial for people. The FDA should overrule the Grocery and Food Industry and insist on labeling that indicates the amounts of calories, fats, carbohydrates, etc. The important stuff, NOT the crap that makes lousy unhealthy food look other than the garbage it is that is being foisted on the public to create profits and support bloatedly obscene executive salaries. Greed and health do not mix.

  89. Still no daily maximum for sugar? The whole american obesity problem can largely be tackled by this simple act of having a daily maximum for sugar, which the industry will refuse to do.

    Want to know the real reason for this new labeling system? It's so that you just glance at the 4-parameter label, and not see the full nutrition information. Once people get into the habit of not seeing the full information, the food companies can start putting more crap that's bad for you into your food.

    Get real, people. It's not something they're doing for you. It's something they're doing to make their own life easier.

    It's ridiculous how bad the system is here. Such a shame.

  90. I don't buy processed foods anymore. Now I just stick to the bascis.

  91. While well intentioned, Mrs. Obama needs to recognize that the first lady's role is that of pet-project-pusher and all-around do-gooder, not regulator. I'm sure this may be hard to swallow, given that Mrs. Obama is first and foremost an attorney.

    Instead of endless debate over what the new labels should contain and look like, packaged food manufacturors should be forced to make the existing analysis labeling (that contains all relevant information) larger and easier to read. Consumers will have the information they need in a more obvious format, and regulators can argue ad infinitem about the virtues of label font size and red light/green light concepts.

  92. It is afterall free markets in a free capitlistic system. The evils of free capitalistic system need supervision by the Government.

  93. On the one hand, yes, foods need to be labeled appropriately, andit's disgusting that sugary foods try to act like they're healthy. On the other hand, who is responsible for an obese child but their own parents? They allow the child to eat sugary breakfasts, sugary soda and juice "drinks," sugary snacks, fattening lunches, and then don't even tell them to play outside, but let them plaly video games all day long. What kind of lunches do the kids take to school with them? If they buy lunch, they should be coached by the parents on what items to buy. Parents are in control of a child's diet. It's their responsibility to look at the label, or in many cases, use common sense to know toat Lucky Charms is bad and Wheaties is better, and feed that to their chidlren. Lucky Charms is a treat, not a staple.

  94. In the continuing effort to gain more market share and to also gain more profits; the Corporist Agenda will stop at nothing, just short of out right poisoning this countries food supply.
    This Corporist Agenda crosses over into the Health Care Insurance, Big Pharma and Medical Care industries. let’s keep the population FAT, SICK and Drugged.
    I lost my parents to Cancer and Heart Disease and my brother to Diabetes. Me, I am into organic food, vitamins and exercise and at 61, I don't need health insurance or drugs.

  95. Some posters have confused the prototype label with an actual label and have noted that the sample omits the portion size. But if you look at an actual example in the illustration (lower left corner of the Food Club cereal box, on pg B5 of the print edition), it clearly gives a portion size of "1 cup" for that particular food.

    This indirectly illustrates the problems of any food label: (1) No matter how much information you give, people -- most often the people who most need the information -- either won't read at all or will read carelessly. (2) The food industry defines a "serving" with an eye to producing the most attractive numbers rather than the average consumer's idea of a serving. If you look at the nutrition information on an ice cream label, the manufacturer does not want to promote the high calorie count, so the label stipulates a "serving" as a half-cup (4 oz). The typical American consumer, though, is a Conehead ("Consume mass quantities!"), and will inhale the entire pint assuming it has only 100 calories. Admittedly the label also includes the number of servings in a package; but most people, again, wouldn't read the label if you put a gun to their heads.

  96. European lawmakers decided on a similar system in 2010 that includes the amount of calories, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt per serving.

    In contrast to the example shown in the article, Europe's system will show a percentage of the guideline daily amounts (GDA) for every one of these, including calories. These guideline levels were set by the EU.

    I hope our own labeling system will have a USDA-established, safe upper limit based on studies of diet-related diseases, helping to create downward pressure on our intake of excessive amounts of calories, sugar, fat and salt.

  97. I believe foods containing ingredients made with GMOs should be labeled as such. Anything containing products or by-products made by Monsanto should not eaten by anyone. The best solution is to eat locally when possible and avoid all processed foods.

  98. It would be less hypocritical if the government just gave cash grants as a payback to political supporters. The rule of thumb should be, for every dollar contributed to help a candidate become elected, the donor should receive 50 back. GE can be the poster boy, they have received billions as a reward for their political support of the Democratic Party.

  99. Label, Shmabel When you see a label on a loaf of bread stating it contains 25 or more ingredients and you still purchase it, the fault, my frend, lies not with the food industry but with YOU.

    They do their thing, and you do their thing too.

  100. 1. Given the obesity rates, what is wrong with food labeling discouraging purchases of certain items? Nothing. A lack of sales should force food makers to retool their offerings.
    2. The details on the back of the package are enough for me to discern what is crap and what, if any nutrional value may be had by the contents.
    3. If you shop the edges of your store, you will be eating well. Veggies, Fruit, Dairy, Meat (if you eat it), and about all you need from the middle are meat-protein alternatives including beans and nuts, and maybe seasonings and beneficial oils.
    We make it so much more difficult than it should be.

  101. There's only one answer, the FDA must categorize all non-nutritious foods as controlled substances and ban their sale. This will eliminate the need for confusing labels that consumers are apparently too stupid to understand. Not allowing non-nutritious foods to be sold will reduce obesity, reduce health care costs and restore America to it rightful place as the leader of the free world.

  102. The big loophole is the expression "per serving". How big is the serving? Wouldn't it be better to list the total contents of the package. Then if you want to eat half the package you know you will consume half the total ingredients. I'm sure we've all noticed something like the can of sardines marked "2.4 servings". Do we realize that when we eat the entire can we have to multiply by 2.4 to know how much sodium etc we really consumed?

  103. You want to make sure people know what they are eating? The easiest way to do it is to start educating the kids in school. It would be easy enough to incorporate some basic nutrition education in every level of the school system in this country beginning with the primary and ending at the secondary. An educated consumer who knows the benefits and the drawbacks of what she or he chooses to eat, is that so hard?

  104. This seemed a constructive conversation between business and the representatives of the people about a very serious issue. Then at the very end, the business people made their intentions clear: they really don't care about the health issues, only their profits.

    When a truly useful labeling standard is suggested - the British system's traffic signal logos - Industry rejected it, realizing it would motivate their consumers to switch brands. But overall, there would be no change in the size of the market. Manufacturers with healthy brands increase sales at the expense of the unhealthy brands.

    This campaign is not about labels, but healthier food and healthier people. Change in the status quo. But producers don't want to change product formulations or how they do business. Since they refuse to make changes, they force us to focus on consumer awareness. (Funny, isn't this yet another Supply Side vs Demand Side confrontation?)

    Producers and their marketing army are proving they just don't get it. They like it just the way it is: people get fatter (pounds) and the rich get fatter too (dollars).

  105. Hey folks, did you ever consider taking responsibility for your own actions. We all know about Corporate Greed, Big Pharma, etc., etc., etc. But when 75% of American adults ignore or are unaware of such a simple concept as unit pricing, (and as a conseequence keep throwing their money down the Corporate Greed rathole) do you really think the design, other than the pretty colors, of a label is going to make a difference to them. Lets all get out the violins, and start blowing in the wind.

  106. No amount of labeling is going to stop obesity. In California, restaurants must post calories on the menu, next to the item. While it does cause a few to stop and think, most people, amused, point to the 1500 calorie taco plate and then order it with extra sour cream.

    The number of food commericials on television is staggering. We shouldn't be able to buy food at the same place we buy gas. It's just wrong, but no amount of intervention by the government is going to stop people from overeating or eating unhealthy.

    There is just no excuses with resources like the Internet to claim people don't know how to eat healthy. Eat unprocessed vegatables, fruits, whole grains, beans/legumes, and lean proteins - without sauces and butter. Limit red meat, white foods, i.e., rice, potatoes, bread, dairy, and processed foods - ideally, no processed foods. Look up and then measure portions if you are unsure what constitutes a portion.

    I am fat. I don't blame the government. I don't blame corporations peddling their wares. I blame myself for taking the easy way, for not noticing the fast food I eat really taste like crap, and for not moving more because of lame excuses. There are some things no amount of government intervention will fix and obesity is one of them. I am responsible for my obesity.

  107. The amounts of calories/nutrients on these labels need to be based on consistent serving sizes for products in a similar category. Currently, cereal serving sizes vary between 3/4 cups to 1 cup. In this proposed system, they could both be labelled as 120 calories per serving and be misleading. Manufacturers of more calorie-dense products can use a smaller serving size.

  108. The elephant in the room is PORTION size.
    The label as proposed still allows the maker to obscure the fact that this 'nutritional information' might be based on a portion size that is utterly fanciful in terms of how people are likely to actually EAT the stuff.

    200 gms of Sodium in a 1oz 'serving'? or 200 gms per ounce in the 6 ounces people are likely to actually eat as a 'serving'? Big difference.

    If the food industry were serious about disclosure and health, they wouldn't care about the shape and form of the layout.
    The PURPOSE here is to obscure reality.

    I hope the people complaining about "Michelle Obama telling us what to do" felt the same way about Nancy Reagan and 'just say no'.

  109. To Carolyn #24. While I generally agree with your arguments, it simply isn't physically possible to eat 12 pounds of preservatives in a day, every day, any day.

    While, it is clear that the industry has no interest in promoting any healthy eating which is contrary to their profit motive, it is important for both sides to use facts and avoid hyperbole.


  110. Another easier way to do this comes to mind. Instead of labeling each package, cut to the chase at the supermarket and just put a skull and crossbones on certain aisles, like the cookie, cake mix, snack food, rotten vegetable oils, soda pop, etc. aisles. Of course that might be more than half the store. Another signage might direct people to the "healthy" foods like the produce section where maybe the management would be kind enought to further divide these items into commercially grown and sprayed and organically grown. I already do this on my own and my average trip to an average supermarket takes hardly any time at all.

  111. There is nothing the food industry can put on the front of the package that will cause me to skip reading the more-important and far more informative ingredient list and standard nutrition label.

  112. I think what should be displayed most prominently is the serving size. Eating a single serving of ice cream (about half a cup) isn't going to make you fat. Eating the whole pint in a single sitting will.

  113. I think it would be better to graphically display percentages. Many people don't fully understand percentages the way the college educated nutritionists intend them to.

  114. I really wonder about the logic behind this "informed consumer" model of consumer protection. We are never given enough reliable information to make healthy choices consistently, and the pace of our daily lives precludes most of us from doing serious research about manufacturers claims.

    Why is the burden of research and verification fully on the consumer?

    And why do we assume that people who make food choices based primarily on advertising by food companies and five seconds of label scanning are making an informed decision that is unerringly in their best interest?

  115. I'm a believer in giving any information that might help no matter where it is placed. There are some shoppers who will never, ever care about the ingredients in what they buy any more than they will care about the fat, sugar, etc content. They know what they like and they buy it regardless. How many of us have heard people AND ourselves say, "I know I should not eat this, but..." and then give 20 excuses why we will anyway.

    For the rest of the public that might be sincere in what they should look for and try to, perhaps this tagging on the front might also encourage them to read the back where the rest of the info is.

  116. Judging by all but a handful of comments, the American food consumers will continue to eat junk and die, whilst they offer all manner of nonsense to cover their inability or stupidity to educate themselves healthwise, and to change their sedentary lifestyles and their abysmal eating habits.

    However, that is the way that the species regulates;the weak are removed from the gene-pool and the strong survive to reproduce superiour genes.

    A few generations from now, should the United States still exist, the present nay-sayer comments will be seen as odd as those who laughed and scoffed at the idea that invisible germs caused diseases.

    Europeans are amused, and incredulous, and yet as well see a confirmation of the obvious from a Nation that is sliding downhill rapidly.

  117. Why is single most useful nutritional measurement to me, Glycemic Index, never on these labels?

  118. Why, exactly, does the food industry have any input into these regulations at all? The FDA's job is to make the rules; the food industry needs to follow them. Can we please stop kowtowing to big business?

  119. eat plants, and stay out of trouble.

  120. Wow, did #60 (highlighted, no less!) really suggest subsidizing healthy food so that "lazy" or "busy" people who don't cook for themselves don't get fat? Not with my tax dollars, thank you very much.

    As others have pointed out, the public knows that ice cream and candy (etc) are unhealthy. This new labeling initiative is little different than advertising "reduced-fat" food which oh-by-the-way turns out to be more unhealthy overall. At least with this system identifiers like "7g Fiber" or "50% DV Vitamin C" are prominently displayed. The public needs to educate themselves on healthy eating, and in fact there are many existing resources such as the excellent website I'd rather pay tax money to support that sort of information than to force companies to brand junk food with even more warning labels we'll all ignore.

  121. Adding to Jack's comment #105: "people get fatter (pounds), the rich get fatter too (dollars)" -- and too often the taxpayer foots the bill: private corporations make big profits and then the public sector picks up the unfortunate results (health-care costs). Likewise the gun industry, which reaps huge profits and the public picks up the inevitable results and enormous costs. Much else operates like this, I'd add ... the private sector (chemical companies, energy companies, agribusiness, etc.) makes huge profits while the public sector ends up dealing with and paying for environmental degradation or catastrophe.

  122. The mere accident of being married to the president should not elevate one's policy priorities to the fore of national discussion, no matter how laudable the objectives.

  123. There's one huge piece missing from that label: serving size which is just as important for making a food decision as those values that are presented. A real case: an oatmeal raisin cookie, individually packaged, at a grocery checkout line. Calories: 275. But then a close read reveals the serving size as "about half a cookie". So eating the entire cookie is over 500 calories but a casual consumer would see the 275. It's just wrong. I wrote the vendor and was told that "government regulations determine serving size and we have to follow those."
    Riiiiiight. This is broken and needs to be fixed.

  124. Why are they not showing 'carbohydrates' up front. Diabetics have to look for the carbohydrates as well as the proteins and calories to make an informed choice for their diets. sugars and carbohydrate information is not the same thing.

  125. Each pretzel contains 100 percent of the daily allotment of pure pretzel-y goodness!