Rate Your Rations

by Joanna

Do you ever go to the grocery store and buy something solely because the picture on the front looks appetizing? When you are shopping at the grocery store, how often do you read nutrition labels? If you are a busy person like me, it can be taxing to read food labels. Statistics have shown that many people find food labels challenging to understand and hard to read. Recently, a government science panel has urged the United States to “rate” all food items on a scale of one to three which would be identifiable on their labels. The labels would address three major factors that can be major contributors of overall health: sodium, sugar, and fat content.

In a report from the United States Institute of Medicine, the rating system would be very similar to the Energy Star program that rates consumer product efficiency. Consumers would not have to be educated about nutrition facts and information, all they would need to know is three is better than two, and etc. This would also hopefully enact food corporations to change their recipes in order to have a better food rating. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention there are currently 72 million people in the United States that are obese. That is 72 million people that are knowingly putting themselves at greater risk of high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, diabetes, and heart attacks!     

The Obama administration has really been at the forefront of trying to get Americans to regress back to healthier times. So you may ask, why does the government care so much about my health? Let me hit you with a staggering statistic. Health care costs Americans approximately $147 billion each year in costs associated with obesity, and guess who is helping foot the bill? It is reported that 42% of that associated cost is paid by Medicare and Medicaid, so even people who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle are paying for the cost of obesity each week out of their paycheck. Our nation is currently in a health paradox in which we are more educated about our choices than ever before, yet the obesity rates have more than doubled since the 1980’s. If this current trend continues, it is also the first time in history that we will live longer than our children. 

The biggest concern about this program is that it has not been tested by the public. A similar program came out in January of this year that certain corporations have experimented with. It does not use the same rating system, but uses symbols known as “nutrition keys” that address’ the same content that the scale system would. This system was surveyed by thousands, but is a voluntary program that not many corporations have adopted.

The FDA, CDC, and USDA are all reviewing this nutritional labeling as a potential change. Siobhan DeLancey a spokesperson for the FDA says that, “the FDA agrees consumers can benefit from a front-of-pack labeling system that conveys nutritional information in a manner that is simple and consistent with the Nutrition Facts panel. The FDA will review the panel’s recommendations as part of its continuing assessment of possible approaches to nutrition labeling on package fronts.”

I think this front labeling could help me save some calories and time at the store. What do you think of front-of pack labeling on food items? Do you think you would be more health conscious if you knew something had little to no nutritional value? 



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