Statement of CSPI Senior Policy Scientist Eva Greenthal

Americans’ overconsumption of foods too high in sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat is fueling an epidemic of hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems. While Nutrition Facts labels are popular among those who use them, research has found that their impact is limited: Only 40 percent of consumers frequently use them, and more than a third of consumers are unable to accurately interpret the percent Daily Value on the labels. 

Several countries, including Canada and Mexico, have improved their nutrition labeling systems by offering more accessible, user-friendly nutrition information on the front of the package, in addition to the more complicated back-of-package disclosure. Front-of-package labels can help people across age groups, languages, and levels of education identify foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.  

Research shows that well-designed front-of-package nutrition labels both empower consumers to make healthier choices and prompt industry to create healthier foods. But in the United States, all we have is the industry’s voluntary “Facts Up Front” label, which appears on a fraction of foods, relies on the poorly understood percent Daily Value, and has proven ineffective at supporting healthier choices. 

The United States and the Food and Drug Administration should not be bringing up the rear. That’s why the Center for Science in the Public Interest and others in 2022 petitioned the FDA to use its existing authority to establish a simple, standardized, evidence-based, and mandatory front-of-package labeling system for all packaged foods. 

While the FDA is at work evaluating several possible labels, and already has clear authority to establish mandatory front-of-package labeling under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, Congress today is also signaling its interest in the issue. CSPI is grateful for the introduction today of the TRUTH in Labeling Act. The bill, sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Jan Schakowsky, directs the FDA to establish a front-of-package labeling system and, importantly, requires that it be mandatory, not voluntary. The bill also has support from more than 20 public health and consumer groups, including the American Public Health Association, Association of SNAP Nutrition Education Administrators, and more.

The industry’s real motivation for its voluntary “Facts up Front” scheme was to forestall progress towards the real thing. Companies only want us to know when their cereals are high in fiber, not when they’re high in sugar. We urge Congress to pass the TRUTH in Labeling Act because the time has come for public health to prevail over corporate profit. 

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