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Will the new food label changes proposed really make a difference?

Posted on Mar 26, 2014 by Maggie LaBarbera

A new food label is being proposed by the FDA.

The FDA is proposing to update the Nutrition Facts label found on most food packages in the United States. The Nutrition Facts label, which was introduced 20 years ago, helps families make informed food choices that can help them maintain healthy eating habits.  

The food labels are there to help you know what you are buying and be able to compare foods so you can choose healthier foods.  But one of the problems is Americans are still very confused about food labels, don't know how to really use them to help them make healthier decisions and who has time to read them.  

I think two of the biggest problems with food labels is:

  1. their location, the back or side panel.  Most parents are rushed to get the shopping done and so they quickly look at the front package to guide decisions.  The front part of the food package is usually where marketing phrases are used to "guide consumers" while the real facts are in the back
  2.  the serving size.  I can't tell you how many times people think they are only consuming a small number of calories but in fact, the package is made of multiple servings.  Who has time to do math.  Often, we see a package as one serving so we eat the whole thing not realizing how many calories we are really consuming.

Let me give you a quick example.

You might grab a snack bag and based on its size, it seems like it is one serving.  Perfect for you to eat in one sitting.  You glance at the calories and see 100 calories.  Cool.  You will get 100 calories from this food.  But you didn't look at the serving size which said 3.  Meaning, this package is really 3 servings.  So if you eat the whole thing it is actually 300 calories.  Oops.  you didn't budget your snack calories that high.  

If adopted, the proposed changes would include the following*.

  • Greater Understanding of Nutrition Science
  • Updated Serving Size Requirements and New Labeling Requirements for Certain Package Sizes
  • Refreshed Design

These changes may help if the serving sizes are changed to be more real life with how we eat.  So, in the example above, the serving size would have actually said 1 serving and the calories 300.  Then you could have made a more informed decision about whether you would eat this snack food or not.

Only time will tell what exactly will happen.  We still have congress to go through and lobbyists to tend with so not sure what this actual changes will be.  I will keep you posted though!


Nourish Thought for the Day:  

Don't get tricked by marketing claims in the front of the package. Take a moment to look at the food label and ingredients.



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