New product labels could tell shoppers whether a food is really healthy or not. Maybe.
Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have introduced new legislation that would require food labels make it clear on the front of a package if a food is healthy or not. The Food Labeling Modernization Act would require a standardized label indicating the food’s sugar, fat, salt, or artificial flavor content via a recognizable symbol. For example, a red traffic light symbol on a product could indicate it’s packed with sugar and fat, and a green light could signal that it’s low in sodium and high in vitamins. Or a low-calorie, high-fiber product might receive five stars, while an artificially sweetened and colored product might receive one. And there are further requirements, like clarifying what percentage of an advertised ingredient a product actually contains, and tacking on additional warnings for saturated and trans fat, Scientific American reports. Of course, it’s probably not that simple. It might get kind of crowded on those labels, not to mention subjective ideas about what is healthy versus not. Some shoppers might think labels like “low in sodium” also mean low on flavor. Meanwhile, a number of European and South American countries have already implemented similar measures; Chile mandated front-of-package warning labels in 2016. As a result, some companies pulled sugar, salt, or saturated fats from their recipes to avoid them. For now, the fate of the food label lies in Congress’ hands.