The food and beverage industry has renamed its new, voluntary front-of-package nutrition labeling system, from "Nutrition Keys" to "Facts Up Front."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced the new name, as well as the launch of a Web site, FactsUpFront.org. The site is a first effort in a $50 million consumer awareness/education campaign that will go into full throttle next year.
The new name, also the theme for the consumer campaign, was selected because "it clearly communicates the program's objective, to move fact-based information from the Nutrition Facts panel on the back or side of the package to the front, so shoppers can more easily find the information they need to make more informed decisions when they shop," says GMA's Senior Communications Director Ginny Smith.
The name/theme was created with the agencies chosen to develop the consumer campaign: BBDO New York (and sister companies), Edelman and FoodMinds, Smith confirms.
The new site, FactsUpFront.org, explains what are now dubbed the Facts Up Front nutrition icons, includes various other research and resources, and prominently features positive quotes from Congressional representatives about the industry's labeling system.
The associations report that the number of consumer products bearing the icons are expanding in line with makers' seasonality and production/distribution schedules, and that the consumer campaign will launch early next year, when the icons will be on a majority of products in the marketplace.
Meanwhile, according to Christine Stencel of the press office for the Institute of Medicine, the IOM's Phase II report on front-of-pack labeling is now in the peer review stage. IOM "hopes" to release the report in October, and has set a "tentative" target release date of Oct. 19, she says.
Congress directed IOM and Centers for Disease Control to conduct the labeling study. Once the Phase II report is released, the Food and Drug Administration plans to release guidance on FOP. FDA officials have said that any FOP labeling system would be voluntary, although participants would be required to comply with its specifics.
In its Phase I report, released last October, IOM concluded that FOP labeling should disclose calories, serving size, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium content information, as these address "the most pressing diet-related health concerns and challenges" for consumer nutrition education and compliance purposes.
It also concluded that including too much information, including beneficial nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, could result in consumer confusion and encourage the addition of unnecessary nutrient fortifications in food/beverage products for marketing purposes.
The industry's FOP system includes icons showing calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar per serving, the daily value percentages for saturated fat and sodium, plus up to two icons showing "nutrients to be encouraged," such as fiber, protein, calcium and vitamins. It forgoes disclosure of trans fats.
The second IOM report will provide recommendations on what format a voluntary FOP labeling system should take, based on consumers' use and understanding of various symbols and systems.
In an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine in June, authors Kelly D. Brownell of Yale University and Jeffrey P. Koplan of Emory University argued that the U.S. food/beverage industry's FOP system "violates several key requirements for an effective approach," based on systems already in place in European countries (including a "traffic light" system used in Britain, wherein red signals that a food is deemed poor in nutritional quality).
The authors said that their main objection to what is now called Facts Up Front is its "lack of a science-based, easily understood way to show consumers whether foods have a high, medium, or low amount of a particular nutrient." They called on the U.S. food/beverage industry to abandon what they termed a "unilateral, unscientific, preemptive approach" and "show good faith by awaiting the IOM [Phase II] report and endorsing the best evidence-based approach to front-of-package labeling."
GMA issued a response stressing that its FOP system is fact-based, in full compliance with existing FDA regulations and in line with the federal government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines, was developed "in consultation with government stakeholders," and is marked by "simplicity" to which consumers have responded "very favorably" during extensive testing.
"The private sector is well-positioned to move this initiative forward quickly and efficiently, and to get it into the marketplace as soon as possible, so that consumers can have access to an important and useful tool that testing shows will enjoy wide consumer acceptance," GMA stated.
Bottom line: The release of the IOM's second report is bound to add fuel to an already highly charged issue.