My Dream Food Label


What would an ideal food label look like? By “ideal,” I mean from the perspective of consumers, not marketers.

Right now, the labels required on food give us loads of information, much of it useful. What they don’t do is tell us whether something is really beneficial, in every sense of the word. With a different set of criteria and some clear graphics, food packages could tell us much more.

Even the simplest information — a red, yellow or green “traffic light,” for example — would encourage consumers to make healthier choices. That might help counter obesity, a problem all but the most cynical agree is closely related to the consumption of junk food.

Of course, labeling changes like this would bring cries of hysteria from the food producers who argue that all foods are fine, although some should be eaten in moderation. To them, a red traffic-light symbol on chips and soda might as well be a skull and crossbones. But traffic lights could work: indeed, in one study, sales of red-lighted soda fell by 16.5 percent in three months.

Read the rest of this column here.

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Posted in Food Politics


  1. Matthew Smith said...

    Hi Mark. I’m obsessed with this idea. I keep coming back to this article and others. As CD at Relay Foods I’ve had this idea that maybe we could use kickstarter as a project to make food labeling open source and available to more people and businesses. The goal being to really develop awareness. Would you have any interest in participating in a group project like that?

  2. Joanne said...

    I love this idea and believe that consumers would gravitate to foods that didn’t scream BAD!! especially for their children! Sometimes this simplest methods are the best but the hardest to enact!

  3. Liz said...

    What a great idea? It is very user friendly and a great tool for a mom to use when shopping with her children. I visualize mom giving her kids some of the decision making ability on what to choose for snacks and meals based on their color coding. Not only does this educate the adults, kids have a chance to feel empowered and make healthy choices as well…win/win. Well done Mr. Bittman.

  4. Laura said...

    Brilliant! I’m in. Let me know where to sign up to be an advocate.

  5. Maria said...

    I Love this Idea, It would make it so much simpler for consumers to understand food labels and make better choices ,
    we have to think of everyone , how Great is this for someone who struggles with not knowing how to read , but yet they see colors and will automatically know if is something unhealthy for them , even children will learn to understand the food labels if they were color coded .

    Absolutely LOVE LOVE the Idea , how can i contribute a lil grain to start this MOVEMENT !!

  6. Tracy Lippes said...

    Absolutely love this idea!

  7. Tracy said...

    Absolutely fabulous! What a great way to get kids involved in making good food choices.

  8. Andrea Walters said...

    As a Canadian, we are only 1/10 the size of the US but have the same exact percentage of people suffering food related disease proportionate to our population. Traffic lights are universal. This works for me!

  9. Tracey Sivak said...

    This is a great idea – the food companies need to get wise to the reality of the food they produce the impact it has on the population. We seemed to learn our lesson with cigarettes but for some reason food that poisons people doesn’t count? The only answer is for people to get angry and stop buying these products! Seems logical and to make sense to me – how do we make this happen?

  10. Merrin Ashton said...

    I’m in great idea from Australia

  11. Alisa Turner said...

    I’m totally in from Charleston, SC! Let me know how to get involved in a project of this scope.

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