UPDATE: It appears the information source for this piece was badly misquoted, and there is no change currently in planning by the FDA. Bummer. Still, read below and write the FDA to tell them this is what we want!!! (thanks Joanna)
We’ve lamented often on the poor usability of nutrition fact labels on foods. The whole purpose of this blog is to help people decode nutrition labels. We’ve even made some suggestions for the FDA to rectify the situation. Now Marion Nestle reports that the FDA is planning several improvements:
- A daily value for added sugars.
- Calorie information in a larger size font; calories listed for the entire package (in addition to single servings) when its contents are expected to be eaten by one person at one time.
- Graphic revisions to make ingredient labels easier to read.
- The percent of key ingredients in parentheses after the ingredient name.
- Warnings about the dangers of caffeine.
- A final definition for the term “natural.”
What you need to know:
This is great news, assuming the changes will actually be implemented sometime this decade. Here’s what the changes mean:
1. A daily value for added sugars. Right now, when you look at the “sugars” entry in the nutrition facts panel, all you’ll see is a count of sugar grams. You have no way to know if the sugar is from natural sources (fruit mostly) or added (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey). By adding an entry for added sugars and also indicating a daily recommended maximum consumption level, people will better understand that a Snickers bar and a Coke pretty much cover their added sugar intake for the day.
2. Improved Calorie information. People see 100 calories on the nutrition facts panel and get all giddy. They don’t realize that the serving size for those 100 calories is only one half or one third of the contents of the package or bottle. They get cheated into consuming twice or three times the calories they thought they would.
3. Graphic revisions. Hoping this includes getting rid of INGREDIENT LISTS IN ALL CAPITALS.
4. The percent of key ingredients. A label for a cereal would reading: Sugar (42%), Corn Flour (30%), Wheat Flour (12%), Whole Oat Flour (10%),… would better help you realize what you’re putting in your child’s bowl every morning.
5. Warnings about the dangers of caffeine. This is important for energy drinks with outrageous amounts of caffeine.
6. A final definition for the term “natural.” Currently the FDA has no defintion for natural. Manufacturers use the term loosely to envelope questionable products in a robe of health they don’t necessarily deserve.
What to do at the supermarket:
Until the FDA’s plans end up on that load of bread you’re holding in your hands, you’ll need to work a bit harder to decode the nutrition labels and ingredient lists. We’re here to help. Got questions: let us know.