Should "Tony the Tiger" share the front of a Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal box with nutritional jargon? It's true that nutritional facts on food products are important to us. But do they really need to be on the front of all food packaging?
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius thinks they do. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing new requirements for food manufacturers to print nutritional information on the front of packages, according to CNSNews.com.
Sebelius believes busy shoppers will have quicker access to data, saving them the time of lifting the box from the shelf and flipping to the side or back panel. But food companies point out that it will be expensive to change packaging, especially for small and mid-sized companies. They also argue that since food nutrition is already provided on packaging, requiring an additional label on the front should not be mandatory. Currently, food manufacturers can put nutrition facts on any panel that can be seen by the consumer.
The FDA also wants to ban "self-labeling" by food manufacturers. That means if a manufacturer wants to use the term "healthy" on packaging, scientific evidence will be required to back that claim.
Personally, I've never had a problem finding the location of nutrition facts on a food product. Nor do I think it would save me a significant amount of time if it was printed on the front. The government will simply impose costly changes, some of which cripple small food companies that can't afford to change their packaging. I shop at a farmer's market every week, and I see firsthand how these types of blanket laws and regulations hurt small, local businesses.
The FDA should focus on bigger issues that get swept under the rug. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die each year from food-borne illnesses. And what about the 10 billion animals raised on factory farms under inhumane conditions that lead to dangerous conditions for the workers, pollution in surrounding communities and a compromised food system (see aforementioned foodborne illness statistic)?
In short, this is yet another example of focusing on the insignificant rather than the pressing problems of our industrialized food system and its effect on our health, economy, environment and workers. What do you think?