IOM issues Phase I report on front-of-package nutrition labeling

October 20, 2010

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a part of the National Academies, has issued its initial report on front-of-package (FOP) nutrition labeling systems. The IOM Report is likely to influence the framework for a voluntary FOP labeling system that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to propose later this year.

In 2009, Congress directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to undertake a study with the IOM to examine and provide recommendations regarding FOP nutrition labeling systems. The IOM established the Committee on Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols (Committee), which divided its work into two phases. In Phase I, the Committee focused on the nutrition science basis for FOP labeling systems. Phase II will focus on consumer perceptions and behaviors. After Phase II (expected to be completed in Fall 2011), the Committee will send its full report to Congress, FDA, and CDC.

The Committee has now completed Phase I of its work and issued a report with preliminary conclusions. Key conclusions of the IOM include the following:

  • FOP nutrition rating systems and symbols should focus on those nutrients most closely linked to diet-related chronic diseases prevalent among Americans: calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.
  • Regardless of which system is used, serving size and calorie information should be included in FOP labeling.
  • An ideal FOP nutrition label would allow consumers to compare and evaluate the amounts of these four nutrients in different products within and across food categories.

The Committee endorses the concept of FOP nutrition rating systems. The report states that FOP nutrition rating systems and symbols have the potential to provide useful information that will assist consumers in making more healthful food choices. In addition, “having key nutrition information displayed prominently on the front of food packages could encourage manufacturers to reformulate products.”

IOM report