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Hain Celestial backs federal truth-in-labeling

Earth's Best

Earth's Best

On the subject of package-front labels on retail foods, the natural-foods company Hain Celestial, of Melville, says it favors an opinion piece published this past month in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Accurate food labeling is considered by health specialists to be a key method for combating obesity and related illnesses, such as diabetes, especially in children.

Hain said the food industry should not act unilaterally now to create its own new system of food container labels indicating healthfulness or good nutrition.

Instead, Hain said, the industry should work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which have assigned the Institute of Medicine to come up with an objective labeling system.

The editorial article -- the one Hain said it supports -- is "Front-of-package nutrition labeling — an abuse of trust by the food industry?"

The article criticized a decision two major food-industry trade associations, the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the Food Marketing Institute, to roll out what is called a nutrition-keys labeling system that can confuse consumers, instead of educating them.

These nutrition keys "may disguise the true character of a product in order to induce purchase and influence consumers' selections," Hain chief executive Irwin D. Simon said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

"For example, 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," Simon said, "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."

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