In Phase I of the study to examine front-of-package (FOP) nutrition rating systems, the committee concluded that such systems are only one among many approaches that provide information to improve the ability of consumers to make healthy food choices. In Phase II of the study the committee found that the variety of FOP systems in the marketplace predominantly focused on provision of nutrition information at the point of purchase. The evidence reviewed on consumer use of nutrition information and product choices, understanding FOP labeling systems, and effects of food package information on consumer choices suggested that an approach that provides nutrition information only has had limited success in encouraging healthier consumer food choice and purchase decisions. Importantly, this evidence led the committee to conclude that a shift is needed from an approach that provides information only to one that encourages consumers to make healthier food choices and purchase decisions. To develop its recommendations for this type of FOP symbol system, the committee identified the characteristics of successful FOP systems and then incorporated them into a model FOP symbol system for food packages and shelf tags.
As noted in the Phase I report, “The most useful primary purpose of front-of-package rating systems and symbols would be to help consumers identify and select foods based on the nutrients most strongly linked to public health concerns for Americans.” Using the Phase I conclusions as a starting point, the Phase II committee determined that the most critical nutrition components to include in FOP symbol systems are calories, saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. The Phase I committee concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support inclusion of total fat, cholesterol, total carbohydrate or added sugars, protein, fiber, vitamins, and other than sodium on a FOP label. Furthermore, the committee determined that added sugars should not be a component of an FOP nutrition rating system because of insufficient evidence about the contribution of added sugars beyond calories to the most pressing diet-related health concerns among Americans; the inability to distinguish analytically between added and naturally occurring sugars in foods without obtaining proprietary product information and including that information on the Nutrition Facts panel (NFP); and the relatively small number of food categories with high amounts of added sugars. This committee reconsidered this Phase I conclusion in light of events occurring after the release of the Phase I report, specifically the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the development of an approach to evaluating added sugars content. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines