Monday, January 27, 2014

FDA to update nutritional panels

 The FDA is looking to update the nutritional panel on food labels.  

Surely, the current label can use a few changes…..such as the labeling serving size. Did you ever wonder why a bottle of soda (‘pop’ for you Yinzers) has two servings? This should be corrected.

Getting rid of grams?….I guess the metric system conversion attempt is over.

Also, studies have shown that people only look at the top part of the label, primarily the calorie content, and rarely venture much further down the label.  So put the important stuff at the top, and the other stuff further down where the food geeks still get what they want.

But who is to decide what is important.  There is no doubt that there will be many opinions regarding what is important for people to know about the food they are about to purchase.  Do we let the consumers decide on what they want to see?  But do those consumers reading the label really know what is most important to look for on a product?

 Of course there are the people who want to know everything about that food....GMOs, natural versus added (unnatural) sugar,  etc.  It can easily get out of control on what certain people may want to see, while the majority of people never make it beyond calories.

Of course the processor is the one that will have to redo all the labels in order to comply with new regulations.  Whether a big company or a small establishment, the company will need to pay to redo and replace all their labels.  And they will need to pay for any added analytics that may need to be provided.

So if change has to come, hopefully it is done right.

FDA Wants to Update Food Labels
Goal is a better informed public
US News and World Report January 24, 2014

By Mary Brophy Marcus
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- America's food labels may get their first makeover in more than 20 years.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency is working toward publishing proposed rules to update nutrition labels and serving size information. 

The agency says its aim is "to improve consumer understanding and use of nutrition information on food labels," according to the FDA.

Nutrition labeling was introduced more than 20 years ago, and the FDA says the science and recommendations behind food labeling has changed since 1992.

"For example, the initial nutritional facts label focused on fat in the diet. There is now a shift to focus on calories to help consumers construct healthy diets," according to an FDA email.

The FDA has sent guidelines for the new labels to the White House, but there's no time frame yet on when they'll be launched, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, Michael Taylor, told the Associated Press.

Calorie listing is expected to be more prominent on the new label, and that could be useful to consumers, according to Regina Hildwine of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation's largest food companies.

She also told the AP that the FDA may be considering removing the "calories from fat" statement on the label.

The anticipated changes come at a time when more Americans are checking out nutrition labels on food products. An Agriculture Department study showed that 42 percent of working adults read the panel always or most of the time in 2009 and 2010, compared with 34 percent two years earlier, the AP reported.

The current labels have been useful, said Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center at Duke University. "I think that the labels have done a pretty good job at highlighting nutrients we see Americans eating to excess or not enough of," Politi said.

Salt, for example, is a nutrient that Americans consume way too much of, said Politi, and having amounts of salt listed on labels has helped people track their intake.

Politi said she'd like to see serving sizes updated to reflect more realistic servings, though. "Soup, for example, the serving size is half a cup, but who eats half a cup of chicken noodle soup?"

Dana Angelo White, a sports dietitian and assistant clinical professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, said sugar labeling could use an update. "Right now, the label just lists sugar but doesn't differentiate between added sugar and natural sugars like those in milk and fruit. I can't tell you how many times people say, 'I can't believe they add sugar to yogurt,' not knowing it's natural sugars."

Politi also said she'd like to see improved education about reading food labels in schools. "We learn math that we never, never use in our life, but not about food which involves decisions we have to make daily," she said.

Consumer understanding and use of nutrition labeling:  a systematic review
Gill Cowburn* and Lynn Stockley
British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford,
Old Road Campus, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK


Objective: To explore published and unpublished research into consumer understanding and use of nutrition labeling which is culturally applicable in Europe. 
Design: A systematic review undertaken between July 2002 and February 2003.
Results: One hundred and three papers were identified that reported on consumer understanding or use of nutrition labeling, most originating from North America or northern Europe. Only a few studies (9%) were judged to be of high or medium–high quality. We found that reported use of nutrition labels is high but more objective measures suggest that actual use of nutrition labeling during food purchase may be much lower. Whether or not consumers can understand and use nutrition labeling depends on the purpose of the task. Available evidence suggests that consumers who do look at nutrition labels can understand some of the terms used but are confused by other types of information. Most appear able to retrieve simple information and make simple calculations and comparisons between products using numerical information, but their ability to interpret the nutrition label accurately reduces as the complexity of the task increases. The addition of interpretational aids like verbal descriptors and recommended reference values helps in product comparison and in putting products into a total diet context.
Conclusions: Improvements in nutrition labelling could make a small but important contribution towards making the existing point-of-purchase environment more conducive to the selection of healthy choices. In particular, interpretational aids can help consumers assess the nutrient contribution of specific foods to the overall diet.


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