We learn through our minds, and we take warnings through our senses.  When you want to give quick, concise, information to the human eye with a cultured aesthetic, you use bright colors, and a relational retinal design to drive context that creates meaning.  In the image below, you see the new food label packaging the FDA is proposing for all processed American foods.  You are immediately confused looking at the information.  Are those too many calories or just the right amount for what you’re about to put in your mouth?  You have to calculate your own “DV” maximum percentage for “Sat Fat” and “Sodium.”  You’re left to wonder what the “DV” for 14g of “Sugars” really means in the big picture.

Here is how the UK labels processed foods.  They use a simple-to-comprehend “Traffic Signal” style of labeling that enforces memes already incurred and then expands that embedded notion of “red, yellow, green” into the food market.

Here’s the Food Standards Agency’s referent:

Food products with traffic light labels on the front of the pack show you at-a-glance if the food you are thinking about buying has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt, helping you get a better balance.

In addition to traffic light colours you will also see the number of grams of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt in what the manufacturer or retailer suggests as a ‘serving’ of the food.

So, if you see a red light on the front of the pack, you know the food is high in something we should be trying to cut down on. It’s fine to have the food occasionally, or as a treat, but try to keep an eye on how often you choose these foods, or try eating them in smaller amounts.

If you see amber, you know the food isn’t high or low in the nutrient, so this is an OK choice most of the time, but you might want to go for green for that nutrient some of the time.

Green means the food is low in that nutrient. The more green lights, the healthier the choice.

Why can’t the USA have a similar, simple, way of decoding our food before purchase and consumption?  I suspect the reason the FDA prefers convolution over clarity is because the Big Food Manufacturers want it that way — they prefer confusing consumers so they don’t have to spend any money to actually make their products healthier and better for the body.


    1. It’s tremendously sad, Gordon. The only way to win is to eat natural grains and raw fruits and vegetables and stay away from a packaged foods diet. That isn’t really a choice for 99.999% of most Americans.

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