It really gets my goat when food labels are difficult to read. Sometimes the print is just too small to read. Occasionally, a funny font is used that makes it hard to read. I've actually put products back on the shelf if I can't read the label as I want to know exactly what I'm buying! As a diabetic, my health really depends on it. I don't want to spend money on a condiment and take out my handy dandy magnifying glass at home only to discover they loaded it up with sugar! I'm also always on the look out for hydrogenated oils, i.e. trans fat, and then also canola oil (which always contains trans fat).
Please remember that trans fat causes diabetes! To learn more, check out my article on what causes diabetes.
Food labels include the "Nutrition Facts" label and the list of ingredients. Even before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was in a habit of reading food labels in the store. However, now I pay much closer attention. I'm trying to eat a low carb high protein diet. Therefore, I always check the number of grams of carbohydrates (available carbs) and protein per serving. I'm also on the look out for products that add unnecessary sugar or sugary syrups - the "bad carbs."
I recently bought a jar of Kettle Foods almond butter. The print was so small I was squinting to try to read it in the store and I had to get the magnifying glass out when I got home. For a company that prides itself on healthy ingredients, you'd think they'd be darn proud of their ingredients and nutritional information, especially on their nut butters, and they'd want to make the print easy to see. This got me thinking about whether or not there were any standards on food labels. I mean what is the use of requiring companies to place a food label on their products if you can't read them?
It turns out that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does offer guidance to companies on food labels. Some of it is mandatory and some of it is just strongly recommended. Here's an exact quote from their website:
"There are no specific size requirements for the nutrition label. However, the "Nutrition Facts" heading must be in a type size larger than all other print size in the nutrition label (21 CFR 101.9(d)(2)2). Minimum type sizes of 6 point and 8 point are required for the other information in the nutrition label (21 CFR 101.9(d)(1)(iii)3), and there are minimum spacing requirements between lines of text (21 CFR 101.9(d)(1)(ii)(C)4)."
They do not require a certain font but they do make strong recommendations and most companies use some form of Helvetica. They do require that it be legible and that's where the rub comes from for me. This is too wishy washy and there a a few companies out there that use really difficult to read fonts, probably due to an over-zealous graphic designer.
There also seems to be exceptions for small packaging. However, I believe even here that companies could improve in this area. For example, if Kettle Foods turned their Nutrition Facts 90 degrees, which is allowed by the FDA, they would have plenty of space to increase the font size.
I think it is important for the FDA hear directly from consumers regarding food labels. The easiest way to do this is to go to their website and email them a comment or call them toll-free. If you want to be really effective, you may want to call them first and follow-up with an email.
By the way, I don't mean to pick on Kettle Foods only. This just happens to be a recent experience but the same thing is true with many other products. I happen to admire Kettle Foods' sustainability practices. Their manufacturing plant in Salem Oregon sports a 600 panel solar rooftop that generates approximately 125,000 Kilowatt Hours of electricity directly from the sun which is pretty darn cool. I also love their tasty chips which are healthier than other chips with no artificial preservatives and natural organic ingredients - but of course almost pure carb so as a diabetic I won't be able to indulge very often.
Please remember that it is possible to reverse diabetes completely if you have all of the right information like you find in this comprehensive diabetes reversal guide.