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Consumer Group Weighs In

In response to the report, the consumer nutrition advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said a uniform front-of-package food labeling system could help improve health in the U.S.

But the group called on the IOM to include added sugar in its final labeling recommendations for at least some foods.

CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson tells WebMD that consumers might get the idea that sugary soft drinks are a good food choice under the proposed labeling system because they contain no fat and little sodium.

Jacobson also called on the FDA to ban partially hydrogenated oils.

“That would get rid of trans fats so they wouldn’t have to list them,” he says.

The report was sponsored by the CDC and the FDA. A follow up report is expected to include the IOM committee’s assessment of the pros and cons of having a single, federally regulated front-of-package nutrition guide.

The group hopes to avoid some of the problems experienced with earlier food industry and government nutrition labeling systems like the much maligned Smart Choices program.

The program was introduced in August 2009 and was voluntarily halted just a few months later by industry promoters at the urging of the FDA.

While the simple green check on the front labels of products was supposed to alert consumers that a product was a healthy choice, Jacobson says the program had major flaws such as allowing exemptions for sugar in breakfast cereals and not requiring whole grain in products containing grain.

Nutritionists were quick to criticize the program when the green check started showing up on products like Kellogg’s Froot Loops.

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