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posted: 5/14/2014 5:30 AM

Lean and lovin' it: Changes coming to FDA nutrition labels

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  • This image provide by the Food and Drug Administration shows, from left, a current food nutrition label, a proposed label and an alternate label. Revamped food nutrition labels would change serving sizes for popular items like ice cream and sodas, make calories listing more prominent, and, for the first time, list any sugars that were added by the manufacturer. The overhaul of the omnipresent 20 year-old label comes as science has shifted.

      This image provide by the Food and Drug Administration shows, from left, a current food nutrition label, a proposed label and an alternate label. Revamped food nutrition labels would change serving sizes for popular items like ice cream and sodas, make calories listing more prominent, and, for the first time, list any sugars that were added by the manufacturer. The overhaul of the omnipresent 20 year-old label comes as science has shifted.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Food Fact labels we've all become accustomed to have been around for 21 years. Those labels have gone relatively unchanged throughout the years except for eight years ago when the Food and Drug Administration started requiring food companies to include trans fats.

Those familiar Food Fact labels are about to change again, and in some significant ways. Before we take a look at what's proposed, let's understand why.

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"The goal is to make people aware of what they are eating and give them the tools to make healthy dietary choices throughout the day," Jessica Leighton, an FDA senior adviser said in March.

The FDA hopes to accomplish this noble goal by making not one, but several changes. The most obvious: the use of large, bold type for the word "CALORIES." And, in even bigger type; the number of calories. They'll both be so big and bold you'll almost be able to see them from across the supermarket aisle.

Next biggest visual change will be the "servings per container" type size, which also will be much larger.

One of the big technical changes is that 'total calories from fat' will disappear; as if that's a number we no longer need to know. The FDA must hope we'll spend the time to read further down the label to fat grams per serving and then do the math (9 times total fat grams). I'm thinking that's not too likely so gauging how high in fat a product is will be harder.

And a new line will appear for "Added Sugars," which will focus on sugars added during a food's processing, an obvious admission that many of today's processed foods contain loads of sugars.

My hope is that folks will take the time to compare processed foods against one another and against unprocessed, natural foods and make the choice that's healthiest for them.

For years I've believed that most servings sizes listed on Food Fact labels have been unrealistically small. For example, who finds a half-cup of macaroni and cheese an ample serving?

I believe that serving sizes for high calorie or high fat foods have been manipulated to be as small as possible; such as spray vegetable oil being a - or ⅓-second spray that delivers zero calories and fat.

The FDA wants those servings to: " … reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data." Finally.

Thanks to current research, the percentage of daily value for potassium and vitamin D will now appear at the bottom of the Food Fact label, replacing Vitamins A and C. Sufficient potassium can help lower blood pressure and vitamin D is, among other things, important for healthy bones especially for women and the elderly.

If you want to weigh in on the proposed label, head to regulations.gov.

Try this recipe: Dry-packed scallops went on sale at my favorite seafood purveyor at $7 off per pound. Because they're so expensive, I don't prepare them very often, so I headed for my recipe collection to find my favorite way to serve them. This easy recipe delivers delicious low-calorie and low-fat results.

Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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