By Wendy Moltrup, MS, CHES
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new guidelines for the nutrition labels on packaged foods and drinks. Under the guidelines, most of America’s favorite foods would have a new look and greater clarity about what and how much you’re really consuming. For anyone who struggles with understanding food labels, this is fantastic news.
The Nutrition Labels Change, Not the Food
The food won’t change, just what you know about that food — more accurate information on calories, fat and added sugar, among other changes.Why the need for change? Dieticians, public health experts, government officials and many others contend that current nutrition labels miss the mark on reality with how people really eat and drink (and they have research to back it up). They believe consumers have the right to better understanding food labels, to know what they’re really getting in their diet.
Clarity for Calories
Do you really know how many calories were in that bag of chips you ate? You’ve been better about reading those food labels, but take a closer look. Even a bag of chips that looks
like a single serving may actually contain multiple servings.The new guidelines would require packages to display calories in a larger, bold print and list calories per serving as well as the number of calories in the entire package.
The Sweet Truth
Under the new guidelines, labels must list how much sugar is added to the product — it’s like sprinkling sugar on your cereal. Current labels list sugar in a product, but that number includes naturally occurring sugars. While naturally occurring sugars are generally part of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits that also have fiber you need, added sugar doesn’t really add to the nutritional value of the food.Requiring labels to list added sugars
is a significant change of great value, especially for consumers for whom understanding food labels is crucial, such as those with dietary restrictions, people watching their weight, and those monitoring their sugar intake because of a condition like type 2 diabetes. A lot of sugar is added to drinks, which the FDA reports are the leading sources of added sugar.
The Facts on Fat
“Calories from Fat,” do you know what that means? Most people don’t know what it means or how it can help them make healthier choices. “Calories from Fat” would be removed from nutrition labels, but the amount of saturated fat and trans fat would still be listed.
Want to Share Your Opinion on the New Food Labels?
How do you feel about our understanding of food labels? Voice your comments here or read more about the proposed changes and how to submit your comments to the FDA
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For Consumers: Consumer Updates.
February 27, 2014. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm387114.htm (accessed February 27, 2014).