Front of Package Labeling Spelled Out - The Lempert Report

March 02, 2012

Walmart recently announced its new front-of-package labeling system that will appear on products in the spring. Here's a review of how some new front-of-package labeling systems work.

Front of package labeling seems like a never-ending issue. Every month or so a new program pops up, the latest being Walmart’s Great for You labeling. The Lempert Report has outlined the FOP labeling schemes that can currently be seen on store shelves or are in the works.

Guiding Stars
The Guiding Stars algorithm determines a food's healthfulness based on positive and negative attributes and awards zero, one, two or three stars. More specifically, the Guiding Stars system credits all edible foods based on the presence of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and whole grains, and debits for the presence of trans fat, saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and added sodium. Foods are then awarded zero, one, two or three stars - one star means good nutritional value; two stars, better nutritional value; and three stars, the best nutritional value.

The NuVal algorithm weighs positive and negative nutrients and presents a score between one and 100. It considers 30-plus nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants; sugar, salt, trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. The system also incorporates measures for the quality of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as calories and omega-3 fats. The NuVal System also takes into account how these nutrients influence health based on broadly accepted, published scientific literature. The algorithm was developed by a team of leading nutrition, public health, and medical experts.

Walmart “Great for You”
The label will first appear on the retailer’s own Great Value and Marketside food items this spring, as well as on signs around fresh fruits and vegetable displays. Single ingredient foods, i.e. 100% fruit juice, unflavored low fat or non fat milk or yogurt, 100% whole grain product or a product (i.e. packaged food) that contains more than 50% whole grains or provides eight grams whole grains and three grams fiber, lean protein foods and more will receive the label. The products must also have no more than 25% of calories from added sugars, less than 20% of total calories from saturated fats, have zero grams trans fats, no partially hydrogenated oils on ingredient lists, and more to make the “Great for You” cut.

Facts Up Front
Facts Up Front shows calories, saturated fats, sodium and total sugars per serving, and highlights two nutrients. i.e. fiber, vitamins, calcium and other nutrients that are considered essential for a healthy diet.

This Institute of Medicine’s approach identifies calories per portion, and has a point system (shown by checks or stars) to show if saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium levels are at or below acceptable levels. The FDA had asked the IOM to review the current labeling schemes and come up with a scheme that could be used across the entire industry.

According to Marion Nestle, “The entire point of front-of-package labels is to market products as healthy or “better for you” no matter what they contain. Front-of-package labels are a tool for selling, not buying. They make highly processed foods look healthier.” An interesting point to ponder.