Just as the year is ending, the tireless consumer advocacy group CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) has sent a 158 page report to the FDA, entitled Food Labeling Chaos – the case for reform [download PDF]. In it, the organization claims that nutrition labeling today is insufficient, and that existing regulations are too lax to deal with the marketing brainpower of the food industry.
If you have a nutrition label addiction like we do, this report is awesome. The authors break the issues down into 3 areas:
- Improving the Nutrition Facts Panel
- Improving ingredient labels
- Stopping false and misleading health-related claims
They provide examples, from a wide range of product by Kellogg’s , Nestlé, Gerber, Minute Maid, and others of why regulatory changes are needed ASAP:
Smart Start Cereal by Kellogg’s misleads consumers to believe that half a cup of added sugar a day is approved by the Institute of Health (that’s 125 grams or 600 empty calories!)
Glacéau vitamin water that comes in 20 fl oz bottles misleads people to think that a serving is only 8oz. In fact, most people gulp down the entire bottle receiving 125 calories instead of just 50.
Thomas’ Hearty Grains English Muffins claim to be “made with the goodness of whole grain” and “made with whole grains”, when in fact the primary ingredient is “unbleached enriched wheat flour,” meaning white flour without the benefits of the whole grain (fiber).
“Consumers need honest labeling so they can spend their food dollars wisely and avoid diet-related disease,” said CSPI senior staff attorney Ilene Ringel Heller, co-author of the report. “Companies should market their foods without resorting to the deceit and dishonesty that’s so common today. And, if they don’t, the FDA should make them.”
What you need to know:
The food industry has a very strong lobby and indirectly exerts a lot of pressure on the FDA. Changes will occur slowly, if at all, and the smart folks in the business sector will always find loopholes and tricks to keep consumers just confused enough to want to buy their products.
What to do at the supermarket:
Don’t fall for marketing tricks disguised as nutrition claims. Simply ignore health claims on the front of the package. Read both nutrition facts panel AND ingredient list, to get a better picture of what food you are buying. Buy products with short, understandable, ingredient lists.
HAVE A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR !!!
Help us test our new food comparison tool: alpha.fooducate.com