The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. announced today its commitment to a Back-to-Basics Approach to Product Labeling and encourages all consumer packaged goods companies to adopt truth-in-labeling standards and rethink their usage of front-of-package nutritional information.
As a leading natural and organic products company providing consumers with A Healthy Way of Life™, Hain Celestial‘s brand promise is built around healthy and nutritional sustainable food choices. Their president, Irwin D. Simon, recently said that “‘Nutrition Keys’ on-pack information may disguise the true character of a product in order to induce purchase and influence consumers’ selections.”
Mr. Simon went on to say that “under ‘Nutrition Keys’, a snack product consisting of nothing more than refined sugar, artificial flavor, artificial color, a small amount of salt, and a small amount of Vitamin C could appear to be a vitamin-fortified, low-calorie, no-fat, low-salt, no-trans-fat product, implying that it is ‘good-for-you’ when it is actually a product of non-nutritive calories that could contribute to obesity.”
He implied that that the FDA’s propsed ‘Nutrition Keys’ seems similar to the ‘Smart Choices’ program introduced last year by an overlapping group of companies, which consumers rejected after seeing it applied to products that clearly weren’t ‘smart’.
“We have a responsibility to educate consumers as to how to make good choices for themselves and their families, for both meal and snacking occasions. We support continued research and discussion on this important issue.”
In a recent Perspective column in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D. of Yale University and Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., M.P.H. of Emory University criticized the content and timing of the Nutrition Keys labeling system introduced earlier this year.
The doctors cite The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who have commissioned the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) to convene an expert committee and issue recommendations for front-of-package labeling. A final report is expected in the fall. Additionally, the Nutrition Keys highlights information that may contribute to consumer confusion by implying healthful benefits for foods, beverages and snacks with low nutritional value.
Hain Celestial supports the conclusions published by Doctors Brownell and Koplan in the NEJM stating that the industry should wait for the IOM report or risk being perceived as untrustworthy and inviting further government intervention.
With some brands looking to carve a few percentage points in market share by using the Nutrition Keys, many brands are concerned about consumer acceptance and confusion. The question is if front-of-package labeling will be adopted as a standard by the FDA and all food and beverage manufacturers will be required by law to implement the new nutritional guidelines much like the Nutrition Eduction and Labeling Act of the late 1990′s, which the majority of consumers still do not understand.