One look at the clunky, confusing terminology and it's easy to see why supermarket shelves are almost devoid of products bearing verbatim qualified health claims. Even the Federal Trade Commission's own research found consumer panelists were not able to distinguish between the different levels of health claims currently allowed on food labels.
The Food and Drug Administration, the agency that weighs claim evidence submitted by manufacturers, is right now sifting through public comments in an attempt to develop friendlier language. There's general agreement that wordy labels prevent consumers from getting important information even in the instances when it's available.
In comments submitted by the National Nutritional Foods Association, Executive Director David Seckman cited statistics from the Natural Marketing Institute showing 68% of consumers polled agree that printed health claims make purchasing decisions easier.
"Obviously, this means consumers are using that kind of information to make decisions about product purchases," he said.
Seckman said manufacturers are hesitant merely to enter petitions for claims "because the response time is poor." He added that the NNFA submitted comments to the agency regarding the Good Manufacturing Practices for supplements in August 2003. "We're still waiting on those."