Oct. 20, 2011 at 4:40 PM ET
Do you have the right to know what you’re eating? The food industry apparently doesn’t think so.
The prestigious Institute of Medicine issued a report today urging the Food and Drug Administration to clear the gobbledygook language off food labels and replace it with an easy-to-read rating symbol, like the Energy Star tag on your appliances.
The idea is to help busy shoppers make better choices with a simple icon with zero to three check marks rating how healthy a food is.
The industry does not like this idea. They’ve launched a new lobbying group called Facts Up Front, devoting a hefty $50 million budget to battling this simple labeling system. The industry wants to keep confusing matters by slapping on information about nutrient fortification even though most people don’t really know what that means.
The food industry is using an ethical argument, claiming consumers don’t want the government telling them what to eat to defend a lack of clarity, uniformity and simplicity in labeling.
Big government is an easy target but the industry argument misses the point. The government’s role is to get industry to give you trustworthy useful information. Telling you that Captain Crunch is fortified with iron does not make it healthy for kids to eat sugary breakfast foods.
The industry ought to embrace what consumers need and want — simple facts about their food.