Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Promoting Healthier Choices


Report at a Glance

A variety of nutrition rating systems and symbols are now on the front of food packages—meant to make it easier for consumers to make healthful choices. However, the number and variety of nutrition rating systems in grocery stores today often lead to confusion in the grocery aisle, especially when consumers are pressed for time and may not understand a product rating system.

Congress directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake a study with the IOM with additional support provided by the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The task was split into two phases. A first report analyzed the nutrition rating systems and the scientific research that underlies them and was released in 2010. This second report delves into consumer use and understanding of front of package systems.

The report concludes that it is time for a move away from front-of-package systems that mostly provide nutrition information on foods or beverages but don’t give clear guidance about their healthfulness, and toward one that encourages healthier choices through simplicity, visual clarity, and the ability to convey meaning without written information. The report recommends that the Food and Drug Administration develop, test, and implement a single, standard FOP symbol system to appear on all food and beverage products, in place of other systems already in use. The symbol system should show calories in household servings on all products. Foods and beverages should be evaluated using a point system for saturated and trans fats and sodium, and added sugars. The more points a food or beverage has, the healthier it is. This system would encourage food and beverage producers to develop healthier fare and consumers to quickly and easily find healthier products when they shop.

Actions Taken as a Result of this Report