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February 2015 Issue

Package Nutrition Symbols Do Not Equal Health

Products that show front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition symbols may not be any healthier than those without them, according to researchers. They found that, though nearly 20 percent of products used FOP symbols indicating nutritional issues of public concern (such as lower calories and saturated fat, sugar and sodium content), foods that were more nutritious overall did not use FOP symbols.

Researchers compared median calories, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium of more than 10,000 packaged foods, both with and without FOP symbols, in 10 categories and 60 subcategories. They also compared nutrient content differences, noting differences greater than 25 percent. Researchers concluded that FOP symbols are used to market foods that are no more nutritious than their counterparts that donít use the symbols. Until there are standards for products using FOP symbols, consumers should rely on the nutrition facts label. †

(Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
(Appetite, November 2014)