The US Institute of Medicine (IOM) will publish the first phase of its research into front-of-pack food labelling today (13 Oct).

Concern about the variety of messages and symbols on packaging and about the inconsistency of how the nutritional characteristics of products are rated, the US Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commissioned the IOM to undertake the review.

The report will be followed by a second phase of research looking at how consumers understand different forms of front-of-pack labelling.

Last year, the FDA signalled its intent to provide standardised, science-based criteria on which front-of-pack nutrition labelling must be based. Having been publicly critical of the industry-sponsored Smart Choices programme, which collapsed last year, the FDA has said it wants to work with industry in the development of a front-of-pack labelling system.

In a letter to industry in March, FDA Commissioner Dr Margaret Hamburg said: “I believe we now have a wonderful opportunity to make a significant advancement in public health if we can devise a front-of-pack labelling system that consumers can understand and use.  We intend to work closely with food manufacturers, retailers, and others in the design process, and I hope that every food processor will contribute its views on how we can do this in the best way possible.”