The Ration

A UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism project on food and health. This is our graphics notebook.
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From: Sarah Logan

When I read the NY Times article about new labels being proposed I was thrilled, my excitement was short lived. Given that some of these labels might actually be considered, or some of their design aspects, I grew alarmed. Missing from all of these labels, and the current label we have now, is the requirement that grams of potassium be listed. Before my kidney transplant I had to count certain nutrients against a medically directed daily allowance, protein, sodium, and potassium being the main ones. Proteins and sodium are fairly simple once you learn the basics, however potassium is not. Unfortunately it is often used in food as a hidden flavorant, particularly in “low sodium” foods. High potassium levels pose a real medical risk for persons with kidney failure, one that can lead to an acute medical event, not the chronic damage that comes with sodium. Prior to my kidney transplant I was rabid about counting my daily grams of potassium, consulting the USDA nutrient data before meals etc. and I still landed in the ER with dangerously high potassium.

Any food label that does not include the grams for each labeled nutrient (including vitamins and minerals) per serving is a waste of space. The simpler the label is the better, most of the redesigned labels created visual noise, which distracted from essential information. I’m including the front runners in this critique.

I suppose this is more of plea than an inquiry, please include potassium and please keep nutrient grams. Percentages mean nothing when your diet is medically modified.


Sarah, 
Thank you for your concern, we hope these designs might help inspire the FDA on their very well-researched journey to rethink the nutritional facts label. 
I agree that there are some designs that are outlandish, fanciful, and in some cases a not helpful at all.
Even so, we are thrilled to see designers and the public passionate about this issue and pushing the boundaries of what a food label can be. We hope these designs will foster a dialogue that will lead to a better label. 
Thank you for your feedback, and all my best, 
Lily and the Rethink Team