5 Major Changes to Nutrition Labels Proposed in New Bill. One Glaring Omission

nutrition label

Let’s admit it, nutrition labels suck. They’re confusing, have not been effective in helping Americans make healthy food choices, and are so full of loopholes that food companies have figured out how to take any crappy product and “healthwash” it to a point that it is considered a superfood.

Although the nutrition label format in its current form is only 20 years old, it’s time for change. We’ve suggested multiple improvements in the past, and now are happy to see that several members of Congress have proposed a bill with significant improvements. Here are some of the proposed amendments to current labels:

1. The use of the word “Natural” to describe a food will be much more limited. Foods with ingredients that were derived through nontraditional chemical processes cannot claim to be natural. Examples of ingredients currently considered Natural that would no longer be so: high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, cocoa processed with alkalai.

2. The term “healthy” will not be allowed for grain based foods if at least half of their grains are not whole grains.

3. Disclosure of added sugars. This will make it easier for a consumer to know how many teaspoons of sugar in his chocolate milk come naturally from milk (usually 3), and how many were added to make it more appealing (2-4).

4. Disclosure of caffeine levels in a food or beverage at any level above 10 milligrams.

5. Standardized Front of Pack nutrition information. This is a mini nutrition label that appears on the front of the package instead of the back or side. It is supposed to inform a shopper with a quick glance whether she should consider the food or not. Unfortunately, there are many competing front of pack labeling systems out there, leaving consumers confused.

The one area this bill does not touch upon is genetically engineered food. This is a glaring omission, especially given consumer interest, and state level labeling initiatives across the country.

Nonetheless, this bill, if approved, is a nutritionist’s pipe dream. The chances of such sweeping reform are very small. The food and agriculture lobbies will block it by persuading their puppet elected officials that the current label is good enough, and that any changes would be “confusing” to consumers.

What additional changes would you like to see to nutrition labels?

Get Fooducated

  • smallfrey

    GMO labeling.

  • daddydave

    See in the picture where it breaks down by type of fat? Not all labels have that. And I have seen very few that break down soluble and insoluble fiber. I would also like to see glycemic index and glycemic load per serving

    On the front, I would like to see some kind of at a glance chart indicating what percentage of fat is trans/sat/unsat, and what percentage of carbs are slowly/quickly digested and a fat/carb/protein bar chart.

    • AimeeRD

      I have to agree, but with the fiber– not only sol/insol, but added fiber in the form of FOS/chicory/inulin.

    • Chelsea

      Would be impossible to label GI in combination foods as the GI changed when foods are combined and I really don’t think there is a way to calculate that! Also, not a lot of scientific evidence available supporting use of GI.

    • Carol H

      All unrealistic, if not impossible, info to provide. The data isn’t even out there for all foods, even if it were useful. Saturated fat, trans fat and total fat are required on labels. Showing mono and poly…. well, which poly fats? There are many of them. Such a label would take up a magazine page. And as another commenter may have mentioned, the degree to which a carb digests slowly or quickly has TONS of factors — e.g., what other ingredients are in the food (fats and protein slow the absorption of carbs), what is the health/metabolic status of the person (age, activity level, etc….), how much of the food is being eaten at one time, etc…. None of this can be put in a black-and-white piece of data/table.

  • Diana Wind, RD

    Your comment, “…have not been effective…” is harsh. I’d like to believe that some of the many patients we dietitians counsel each day have learned how to make meaningful sense out of the current food labels. Unfortunately, the obesity epidemic makes it appear as if none of our nutrition education is working!

    Given the strong correlation between obesity and diabetes and given that diabetes is a comorbidity of chronic kidney disease (CKD), we can expect CKD to continue increasing in America too. This prediction would warrant attention to putting nutrients on food labels that are important to those battling CKD such as phosphorus and potassium. According to the CDC, one in 10 American adults – more than 20 million – have some level of CKD.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      The proof is in the pudding. The NLEA did not help improve consumer food choices.

    • Chelsea

      I don’t think changing labels to be “less confusing” will make a big difference in terms of how many people use them. The majority of people that don’t read them, simply don’t care!! The people that do want to read them take the time to learn how to do so with the current ones!

    • Heather Nehr Hall

      Yes!!! I really think this is important, so so many people currently have kidney disease, and so many more will develop kidney disease until the obesity and unhealthy lifestyle choices epidemic gets turned around. 2 lines, that’s all!

    • Carol H

      I agree. The labels have definitely made a difference. Without them there would be no way to compare foods for nutrition. But a consumer who doesn’t want to pay attention will never pay attention, and that is their right/problem.

  • Anon

    “The term “healthy” will not be allowed for grain based foods if at least half of their grains are whole grains.”

    …what? Did you mean if half of the grains AREN’T whole grains?

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      yes, fixed. thanks!

  • Diane

    I would like GMO foods labeled and also gluten-free labeled in large type on the front so I can find them.

  • Linda Schwebach Stroth

    I would like all the suggestions provided to be on the food label. People will learn if it is there.

  • Kevin Nicht

    GMO’s!

  • Eric

    People on here need to cool it with gmo. Gmo has not been proven to be harmful to your health. People talk about gmo like its poison.

    • Sarah

      I totally agree. Everyone gets all antsy about it and there is no reason for it. Read a proper science paper on this stuff and there would be no reason to panic.

      • Eric

        Yes thank you Sarah! Also what people don’t realize is that there would be alot more starving people in this world because gmo dramatically increases produce production.

        • sassysue

          if that’s what you think then go ahead and eat it but don’t be surprised if you get cancer aches and pains in your muscles and joints and every other ailment that’s out there.

      • sassysue

        where do you think GMOs came from in the first place? Labs and sciences

    • sassysue

      IT IS!! Do some research. google GMO- rats- tumors

  • Bastiat

    GMO Labeling.. easily the top of my wish list.

    Standardized “serving sizes” would be nice too. Nothing like seeing some plastic bag of over-processed corn showing it only has 25 calories until you look at realize that by their math the little bag they are encouraging people to eat out of has 18 servings in it.

    • Carol H

      There are standardized serving sizes… required by labeling regulations. Some food companies are not too good at following the regulations, unfortunately, and FDA does not have (nor is the US taxpayer willing to pay for) thousands of compliance officers. Best to read the label and actually pay attention to what the serving size says. If it sounds small, then bingo… you know why the calories are low.

  • Nina

    In addition to GMO labeling, I would like them to stop allowing companies to put “0 trans fat” on the label if it is made with partially hydrogenated oil. I would also like them to add a column with nutrition info for the entire package because some of those packages with “2″ or “3″ servings seem like just one serving size!

  • http://ehkitchen.net/ Alyssa B

    These changes would be awesome! It would be great to stop seeing the words “natural” and “healthy” thrown around so much. It would also be great to see a breakdown of natural vs added sugar like different kinds of fat are shown now.
    I would like to see other unverified health claims taken off and realistic serving sizes.

    • Carol H

      Natural is regulated by USDA for meat/poultry/dairy and it is “quasi-regulated” by FDA for other foods. “Healthy” IS a regulated term, as are a number of other claims. Unfortunately, there are uninformed members of the industry who aren’t fully aware of the regulations. Unverified health claims already ARE NOT allowed, and serving sizes are defined for each category of food. There is no way to have a serving size for each person… we all eat and require different amounts of calories per day depending on our size, age, metabolism, activity level, etc. It is important for the consumer to understand what is too much food for themselves… common sense.

  • kathy

    Phosphorous should be added to the label – it is being used as an additive and is very difficult for dialysis patients to decipher if it is an acceptable food.

  • Heather Nehr Hall

    I would love a simple rating system much like EWG uses to rate products for health and safety. However, that would be very challenging given the lack of agreement on what is truly healthy and safe. This would make a difference regarding the people who don’t label read because they either don’t care enough or find it confusing. A simple 1-5 from eat often to only rarely or never, of course if you put out potato chips made in transfats, that’s going to piss you off to have to put a eat rarely or never label on your product. What a boon to the changes we need to make in our commercial food products that would be!

    • Heather Nehr Hall

      oh, and I meant in addition to more thorough information in another area. The 1-5 thing on the front.

  • Ross Stralia

    It would be nice to see whole packet numbers with realistic serving sizes.

    When you see a chocolate bar that is 2 servings and in reality you are going to eat the whole thing the numbers can be misleading. Also the serving size with granola is unrealistically small and I’m sure there are many many other examples.

    • Carol H

      Why do you have to eat the whole thing? That is why people are overweight… they don’t know when to stop. Chocolate bar serving size is 40 grams. All candy bars must use that as a serving size. It is standardized… not misleading. Just look at the label to see how many servings. It’s not that difficult.

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  • Audrey

    I’d like for a product to have to state trans fat even if it is under .5. It be much easier than reading every ingredient searching for hydrogenized oils

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