New Labeling to Highlight Sugar, Nutrition Data

An employee arranges cereal boxes for sale at a supermarket in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)
An employee arranges cereal boxes for sale at a supermarket in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

Red and green could soon be a universal indicator not only for traffic and pedestrians, but also for whether a food product is healthy or otherwise. A state-appointed committee on food labeling is set to present its recommendations to the Health Ministry next week, and a report in Yediot Acharonot said that the recommendations would entail including a healthy or unhealthy symbol for products, graded on the number of calories, the level of fat and the amount of added sugar in products.

According to the recommendations, foods that include any of the following — 300 or more calories per 100-gram (3-ounce) serving, 500 mg of sodium and/or 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams, or 5 grams of saturated fat per 100-gram serving — would get a “red” mark, meaning that consumers should avoid and/or significantly limit their intake. Foods that conform to recommendations of the Health Ministry, such as having no added sugar, would get a “green” mark.

Labels in Israel (unlike in the United States) are required to list the amount of added sugar in a product, but the recommendations say that a clearer indication of the amount of sugar is needed — and instead of just numbers, sugar will be represented with a spoon symbol, with every 4 grams of added sugar per 100-gram serving represented by a spoon. The more spoons, the more sugar — and the more consumers can clearly recognize how much sugar is in the food they are eating, the recommendations say.

The recommendations are similar to labeling used in several countries, including a number in South America and Europe. Sweden, for example, has been using similar labeling for the past 30 years, and five years ago the rest of the Scandinavian countries joined in.

The committee that drew up the recommendations was established last April and was led by Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov. According to ministry officials, the new labeling strategy will enable Israelis to have a clearer picture of what they are eating and make healthier choices.


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