Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Should you trust front-of-box nutrition labels?

Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images

Do company-sponsored nutrition labels on the fronts of food packages actually work at highlighting healthy items for consumers?

A new proposal says no, and argues they should be replaced.

A high-level panel of experts says food products should carry standardized, government-regulated front-of-pack nutrition rating labels that can help people quickly identify how healthy products are. Under the plan, an item would have a rating from zero to three in terms of its overall health profile; the label would also indicate how many calories are contained in a realistic serving size.

Story continues below advertisement

The Institute of Medicine, a U.S.-based panel of scientists that often helps shape government policy in the United States as well as Canada, says the labelling program should replace the ones currently used by many companies to call attention to their products.

Front-of-pack nutrition labels have become a staple in the grocery store, including the well known Health Check program sponsored by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Sensible Solutions from Kraft.

But some food experts criticize those programs for using lax criteria, failing to accurately disclose all relevant nutrition information to consumers or simply creating confusion.

There is already some resistance to the IOM's proposal. The U.S. Grocery Manufacturers Association says it would rather use Facts Up Front, a front-of-pack labelling program announced in January by the food industry.

But the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer group, says the industry-led system is too complex and doesn't provide quick, clear information to help people make choices.

The issue of nutrition labelling has been the subject of heated debate for years, with differing opinions on how much information consumers need and what criteria should be applied to such programs.

What type of nutrition labelling would you find most helpful? Should governments get involved or leave the responsibility to the industry?

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.