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Food Label's Front Package Doesn't Always Mean Food Is Healthy, Study Reveals

First Posted: Feb 02, 2016 03:09 PM EST

Shopping for healthy foods at the grocery store can be a tedious process. Most people depend on front package labeling when making food sections. It turns out front of pack (FOP) may not be the best option to determine the nutritional value and quality of food items, as some foods may not be as healthy as stated on packages.

In a recent study, a group of researchers examined the front of pack nutrition claims on over 2,200 breakfast cereal and prepared meals that were sold between 2006 and 2010. The researchers found that no symbol or number of front of pack could distinguish "healthy" foods.

The Food and Drug Administration has defined four types of FOP nutrition marketing claims - health claims, nutrient claims, qualified health claims and structure/function claims. Claims that read "low-fat," "cholesterol-free" and "may reduce the risk of heart disease" are designed to compete with other side, front, or back of pack messages and symbols, according to the researchers.

Claims such as "natural," "organic" or "local" can be used to determine nutrient content. However, these claims are not an indicator for higher nutritional values and quality. The researchers urge that consumers should still check the Nutrition Facts panel for additional details of a product.

The findings of this study were published in the Journal of Food Science.

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