Have you ever gobbled up a smallish bag of chips only to realize that, according to the food label on the side of the package, you’ve just consumed three servings, not the single serving you expected? Do you stop to recalculate the dreaded saturated-fat percentage? Or, wait a minute; is it the trans-fat percentage that’s going to kill you? And are the twelve grams of protein you just ingested good or bad?
The familiar but perplexing black-and-white Nutrition Facts label is up for redesign. Good magazine and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program are sponsoring the Rethink the Food Label project. It is a contest that can be entered by anyone who has ideas that would make the label more useful to consumers. “Your design could incorporate the nutrition label’s existing break down of fats, sugars, vitamins, calorie counts and percent daily values. Or, you could re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics,” the sponsors say.
Why does nutritional labeling matter? The program explains:
We all read these food labels, but we’re not always sure what they mean. Is 20 grams of sugar too much? How much is a gram of sugar anyway? How many grams of fat fit in a teaspoon? Should I care about folic acid more than riboflavin? Saturated fat more than cholesterol?
We are confused about what and how to eat and so we’re eating too much of the wrong things. In fact, we’re eating too much of everything. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate among preschoolers has doubled since 1970. Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic. We want to make it easier to choose healthy food.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration attempts to decode the existing food label on their website, but it’s still confusing. Michelle Obama agrees, saying at last year’s Grocery Manufacturers Association conference, “We need clear, consistent, front-of-the-package labels that give people the information they’ve been asking for, in a format they understand.”
Submissions to Rethink the Food Label are accepted until July 1 and will be judged by Michael Pollan, among others. Watch the promotional video here: