Government labeling proposal uncovers important truths about grains

by Josh Sosland
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A battle shaping up between the food industry and the federal government over front-of-package labeling may leave the baking industry in a quandary.

In January, the food industry launched its Facts Up Front panel through the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute. The industry’s panel has many positives. It creates a single approach agreed upon by the nation’s largest companies, it was developed through extensive consumer testing and focuses on calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium, and where appropriate, nutrients to encourage. It also avoids a good foods/bad foods model.

The government-sponsored approach, unveiled last week by the Institute of Medicine and criticized by food manufacturers, gives each product a score from 0 (low) to 3 (high) based on content of trans/saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. While there is good reason to be concerned about the I.O.M. model, bakers ought to take a quick peak at the scores of their various products. In a sampling published by the I.O.M., whole wheat bread is scored a 3, animal crackers receive a 2 (docked for added sugars) and chocolate chip cookies are scored a 1 (docked for added sugars and fats). Breakfast cereals generally are scored either a 2 (for sweetened cereals) or a 3 (for non-sweetened). Interestingly, bread baked from enriched flour (the most popular product sold at supermarkets, according to SymphonyIRI) was not included in the sampling, but it appears the I.O.M. would score white bread a 3.

Bakers still would be wise to view the I.O.M. approach warily, but for now it appears to be good news for the industry.
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