Better food labelling for better food choices

Renee Walker’s winning design in the ‘Rethink’ competition

Fed up of squinting at tiny print on food labels?

Vegetarians, vegans and others with dietary restrictions will be particularly familiar with this dilemma. But also busy mothers who want to know what’s in their kids’ food is safe, and those who want to try to eat more healthily.

Given the obesity epidemic, there’s been a social movement to improve food labelling in both the US and Europe. Take the competition ‘Rethink‘ which invited people to redesign the nutritional label in the US. Or the traffic light system which UK authorities have finally managed to impose after years of battling the food giants. (Here in New Zealand, a survey has shown that Kiwis are confused, but little seems to be happening yet.)

The counter movement: what doesn’t go on the label

The word ‘natural’ on food has always been a bit of a bugbear. Even though we know it’s a major weapon in the food marketing arsenal, we’re still taken in by it.

Amazingly, the US is considering regulating ‘natural’ on food packaging. If it has genetically modified ingredients, it must not only say so, but it cannot call itself ‘natural’, according to Proposition 37.

Personally, I feel the jury’s still out on genetic modification, but giving people the information can’t be bad, right? Well, major food manufacturers seem to think so – they’ve spent a lot on the campaign against Prop 37.

When lobbying goes wrong

Healthy Glow Nutrition blog drew my attention to an ironic story about one such: General Mills. General Mills makes the well-loved cereal Cheerios – and it wants the right to put GMOs in there without having to tell us. The US public showed their displeasure when General Mills released a Facebook app encouraging people to make a pic with what Cheerios means to them – example below.


There were reportedly thousands of these angry statements posted before General Mills pulled the app. Oops.

The moral of the story

…is that there are people out there fighting for us to have the right to decide what we and our families eat. Information is a blessing – let’s make use of it to make good decisions.


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