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    EDITOR’S NOTE: Label With Care

    Manufacturers and even retailers are concentrating on the front of packages.

    A few years down the road from the humiliating “Smart Choices” fiasco, the food and beverage industry is once again dipping its toe in the nutritional labeling waters. Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program, which aims to reduce childhood obesity, a group of beverage manufacturers have debuted front-of-pack labeling under the “Clear on Calories” initiative, while the recently rolled-out “Nutrition Keys” aims to place nutritional information on the front of a variety of consumer packaged goods items from leading companies.

    Both programs are voluntary, but the FDA is currently examining the efficacy of such packaging, and government regulation of some kind in the future is at least conceivable.

    Even grocery retailers have been getting in on the labeling act, with trendsetter Safeway offering front-of-pack nutritional information for items in its Eating Right better-for-you product line.

    As to the impact of all of this on shoppers, it appears to vary. A study from HealthFocus International found that the effect seems to depend on the individual product studied, while other research suggests that Americans are getting much less whole grain than they think they are, that many consumers don’t understand how calories affect their weight, and that some shoppers may even be suffering from a form of label overload, meaning that they’d be less likely going forward to use information featured on packages as a basis for purchasing products.

    Still, clear and consistent labeling seems to be the way to go, and food and beverage companies are committing themselves to offer the nutritional information they believe shoppers want. As to how it will work at store level [m] that is, whether customers reward the manufacturers of labeled products by purchasing more of such items [m] stay tuned.
     

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