New “Energy Star” style ratings for food?

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As anyone familiar with my new book knows, I’ve developed a habit of following people at supermarkets, and sometimes I talk to them. (Someone on my book tour said this is known as “action research” by behavior scientists. I prefer it to “stalking.”) A medical watchdog group is proposing the adoption of “Energy Star” style labels for foods to help battle the confusion caused by existing nutritional labels. I think this is a great idea, but I suspect that a lot of food manufacturers will fight it. They’re the ones who have been telling us for years that sugar-loaded cereals are “part of a complete breakfast.” CBS News reports:

Registered dietician Samantha Heller said the changes being proposed by the Institute of Medicine are akin to the Energy Star ratings for appliances.

The front of the package would feature a check mark or star markings and the calorie count. The back of the package would have the traditional nutrition facts table. Currently, Heller explained, consumers get mixed messages when it comes to labeling. She said, “A package can say ‘high in fiber,’ ‘a good sourse of calcium’ and be high in saturated fat or sodium. Consumers aren’t sure what they are getting, and it’s very frustrating. … (The Institute of Health’s labels) are looking at calories and then evaluating saturated and trans fat, sodium, and added sugars. If you meet their criteria, you get a check mark for each, or a star. They are still working on this. It’s a work in progress, it’s an enormous undertaking, and food and nutrition is very complicated.”

Watch the full video report over at CBS News or read the full report online at the Institute of Health.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. I think this is definitely the way forward. I bet there will be resistance but ultimately it’s what’s best for consumers so I *really* hope that this goes through.

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