A medical group says it wants labels on the front of all packaged food sold in grocery stores giving consumers a quick assessment of its nutrition value.
The Institute of Medicine said the "fundamental shift in strategy" on food packaging would go beyond providing nutrition information to actually encourage people to eat better and combat an epidemic of obesity, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
"People are so busy and there are so many products to choose from. If there is a system that could very quickly, almost instantly, identify which foods are healthier in terms of reducing chronic disease risk for children and adults, it could really help," said Mary Story, a public health professor at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Institute of Medicine panel.
The proposed label would be on the front of the package and would consist of stars or some other simple symbol with a zero-to-3 rating, similar to the Energy Star rating on appliances. The nutrition information panel now required on the back of all food packaging would remain. Foods high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium would likely rate a "zero," alerting consumers the food is unhealthy.
"It's up to the companies to make products that are healthy," said Juliet Sims, a registered dietitian at the Prevention Institute in Oakland, who hailed the label recommendation. "That's what they say they want to do, that's what we want them to do, and this is a way to hold everyone to that."