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Mandating front-of-package food labels in the U.S. – What are the First Amendment obstacles?

Jennifer L. Pomeranz, Parke Wilde, Dariush Mozaffarian and Renata Micha

Food Policy, 2019, vol. 86, issue C, -

Abstract: Front-of-package (FOP) food labels are symbols, schemes, or systems designed to communicate concise and useful nutrition-related information to consumers to facilitate healthier food choices. FOP label policies have been implemented internationally that could serve as policy models for the U.S. However, the First Amendment poses a potential obstacle to U.S. government-mandated FOP requirements. We systematically reviewed existing international and major U.S.-based nutrition-related FOP labels to consider potential U.S. policy options and conducted legal research to evaluate the feasibility of mandating a FOP label in the U.S. We identified 24 international and 6 U.S.-based FOP labeling schemes. FOP labels which only disclosed nutrient-specific data would likely meet First Amendment requirements. Certain interpretive FOP labels which provide factual information with colors or designs to assist consumers interpret the information could similarly withstand First Amendment scrutiny, but questions remain regarding whether certain colors or shapes would qualify as controversial and not constitutional. Labels that provide no nutrient information and only an image or icon to characterize the entire product would not likely withstand First Amendment scrutiny.

Keywords: Food labels; Front-of-pack; First Amendment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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