Michelle Obamas Nutrition Keys to Bring Change to Food Packages

2011-01-25 11:36
Food labels

Thanks to Michelle Obama, you will no longer have to search the fine print on nutrition labels to know what you are consuming. Bold and easy to read “Nutrition Keys” will now be displayed on the front of popular product packages in the U.S.

The Nutrition Keys icon will highlight the calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content per serving in the product. Some packages will also contain additional information known as “nutrients to encourage” such as potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron and protein.

The Nutrition Keys program comes as a response to Michelle Obama's request for a front-of-pack labeling system in March of 2010. The first lady's request was made as a part of her initiative to solve childhood obesity within a generation. The Nutrition Keys program is designed to give consumers a quick and easy reference to nutritional information and encourage healthier food choices.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute have collaborated to make this program come to life. Chairman of the GMA, Gary Rodkin stated, “Helping consumers make informed decisions is not just good business sense, it is the right thing to do.”

Consumers will begin to see the Nutrition Keys displayed on packages within the next few months. Although program participation is voluntary, food and beverage manufacturers have readily agreed to participate.

Updated 8/3/2013

This is the first major change in the way that nutritional information is provided to consumers since the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. This act required all food packages to display specific nutrient information in the form of a “Nutrition Label” as we know it today. However, follow up studies since enactment have not shown any impact on the obesity rate in the US. In fact, obesity continues to rise.

More recently, in 2009 certain states began mandating nutritional labels on restaurant menu items. This too failed to change consumer eating habits.

The rate of obesity is expected to reach 42 percent by the year 2050 and thus far no program has been able to slow down this progression. Although past failures of nutrition labeling programs cast a shadow of doubt on the Nutrition Keys program, we hope that Mrs. Obama has brought the “change” we have been waiting for.

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