Yesterday we wrote about the FDA’s plan to refresh nutrition labels and made several of our own suggestions. In parallel, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer watchdog organization, published its own set of recommendations. They’ve done a great job, including some very cool graphics. You can download their 2 page report here [PDF]. Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times also has a good summary.
Some of CSPI’s recommendations include:
1. Putting calorie and serving size information in larger type at the top of the label so it’s immediately clear how much you are eating. To that, we would add listing the entire calorie content of a package soa person doesn’t have to do the math.
2. Making the ingredient list easier to read by printing it in regular type instead of all capital letters. Use bullets to separate ingredients rather than allowing them to all run together. This is a good point – consumers have a hard time just reading what’s in the box, let alone trying to understand it.
3. Listing similar ingredients together and show the percentage by weight. For instance, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and grape juice concentrate are all forms of sugar and should be listed in parenthesis under the catchall heading “sugars.”
4. Using red labeling and the word “high” when a product has more than 20 percent of the daily recommendation for fats, sugars, sodium or cholesterol. This is a good idea, but we think focusing on sodium, sugar, and saturated fats should be enough. Not all fats are bad, and avocados, high in healthy fats, would be reprimanded in vain.
5. Displaying prominently the percentage of whole grains contained in a product – This is important because many times a bread or pasta will boast “multi-grain” or “whole-grain” when only a small percent of the wheat used is whole, and the rest is plain white flour, devoid of fiber and other nutrients.
What to do at the supermarket:
Until the FDA actually does something, we still have a while to go. In the meantime, shop around the perimeter of the supermarket, look for products with short ingredient lists, and when in doubt, ask us.
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