October 14, 2020
The United States should require prominent warning labels on front-of-product packaging to alert consumers when food products contain high levels of unhealthy nutrients, according to an October 1 JAMA Viewpoint article.
The piece was coauthored by Marissa G. Hall, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a member of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Anna H. Grummon, PhD, a 2019 alumna of the Gillings School who is currently a David E. Bell Fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and a research fellow with Harvard’s Division of Chronic Disease Research Across the Lifecourse.
They detail how five countries — Chile, Israel, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay — have passed legislation requiring nutrient warnings since 2016.
In related research published in July by PLOS Medicine, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Chile found there were important decreases in the levels of sugar and sodium in packaged foods and beverages within just one year of the implementation of a 2016 Chilean law requiring front-of-package warning labels on unhealthy foods. Those findings showed that labeling regulations can lead to concrete nutritional improvements in popular products.
“Whether this approach will be effective in the United States is not yet known, but the increase in diet-related disease is an important health challenge in the U.S.,” Hall and Grummon wrote in the viewpoint. “Given the magnitude of diet-related diseases, no single policy is likely to be the sole answer to solving poor diet and obesity. Instead, multiple interventions across many sectors are needed. Nutrient warnings are an important strategy that should be leveraged as soon as possible. They could help inform consumers, encourage the food industry to make healthier products, benefit public health, counteract certain industry marketing practices and potentially improve health equity.”
This article originally was posted by the Carolina Population Center, where Hall is a faculty fellow.
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