After the American Heart Association introduced its heart healthy logo in 1995, manufacturers apparently decided that such “healthy” logos were a pretty good marketing idea. Similar logos, called front-of-the-package labels, or FoP labels, have become popular with several food manufacturers, each of which has developed its own labels using its own criteria. Now, not surprisingly, a study by the Prevention Institute has found that these labels are misleading to customers. According to the Prevention Institute’s executive director, Larry Cohen, they “emphasize one healthy aspect to trick [customers] into buying something fundamentally unhealthy.” Dora the Explorer Fruit Shapes, for example, prominently labels itself as “gluten free,” but does not mention the fact that 58 percent of its calories come from sugar.
The Prevention Institute reviewed 58 children’s food products with FoP labels and found that 84 percent were actually unhealthy. According to the study, over half of the study products qualified as high sugar, and 95 percent contained added sugar. More than half were low in fiber. More than half did not contain any fruits or vegetables; of those that did, half came from tomatoes or corn. About a quarter of the prepared foods were high in saturated fats, and more than a third of the prepared foods and meals were high in sodium.
The Prevention Institute is calling on the FDA to require uniform labeling standards for FoP labels, as the current system appears to have evolved into a marketing strategy designed to mislead consumers rather than truly inform them about product nutrition.
The Prevention Institute