Displaying calorie and fiber information in front-of-packaging nutrition labeling is an effective way of helping consumers pick the most healthful food options, according to a report on new research from the International Food Information Council. 

The Food and Drug Administration has been researching front-of-package, or FOP, systems through the White House National Strategy to end hunger and increase healthy eating. The agency aims to propose a standardized system to help consumers quickly and efficiently identify healthy food. 

IFIC tested various FOP schemes that FDA is considering for standardization, as well as some options not now under consideration by the agency. These schemes include a potential “healthy” symbol, Facts up Front, and labels with calorie and dietary fiber information. 

Notably, the study found that no single FOP scheme stood out as superior in helping people select the healthiest and least healthy food label, the report says. The impact of FOP labeling may depend on the type and amount of information provided, as well as the food product.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute released the Facts Up Front label in 2011, and many companies use it as a standard. The label requires added sugars, saturated fats, sodium and calories and allows up to two additional “nutrients to encourage.”  

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The IFIC study tested the effectiveness of different cell schemes similar to the Facts up Front model that included different information. Within this test, FOP schemes with calories and dietary fiber, along with the other standard information, helped participants select the healthiest choice. 

FDA has suggested six FOP scheme prototypes that only include information on the three nutrients Americans overconsume, added sugar, saturated fats and sodium. The study shows that a standardized FOP label with added nutrient information like fiber would be beneficial.

“A standardized, science-based FOP scheme void of such information may not provide the critical context to determine a food’s nutrient density, an important concept that consumers already struggle to understand,” according to the report. 

IFIC also found that a label similar to Facts up Front was more effective than a prototype “healthy” symbol in convincing participants that an item was healthy. 

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