BY LEYLA KIOSSE | The Nutrition Facts label (“food label”) was first designed and introduced by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. Before we go any further, let me just say two things. First, I can’t believe it took until 1993 for the government to finally require that this information be provided to the public. Second, I can’t believe the label is 22 years old already! Now I’m feeling old.
Anyway, back to the label that is the bane of every consumer’s existence. The food label often makes a trip to the grocery store even more time consuming and aggravating than it already is.
Looking at the food label, you may have experienced one or more of the following thoughts: What is %DV? How do I calculate what my %DV should be? A serving size in ounces – how do I convert that to cups? Ahhh! Math! Why should I have to do math before I can decide whether to buy this can soup?!
Sensing consumer frustration over the food label, and the fact that the American diet really has not improved since the introduction of the label, the FDA announced in early 2014 that it was redesigning the label. With this redesign, the FDA’s stated goal is to “make people aware of what they are eating and giving them the tools to make healthy dietary choices throughout the day.” Click here to read more about the FDA’s reasons for redesigning the label.
According to the FDA, the new food label rules would apply to about 60,000 food manufacturers, and they would have two years (from the date the rule takes effect) to comply with the new standards. The FDA held a public comment period for these changes, which closed on August 1, 2014. As of this post, the date that the new food label takes effect is not known.
So, what will the new food label look like? More importantly, will the new label be an improvement over the last one? To answer these questions, Foodnarc.com turned to nutrition extraordinaire, and co-founder of Team Nutrition Genius, Laura Ligos (MBA, RDN) for her thoughts on the food label. The article and infographic that follow were submitted by Laura. Laura points out the problems with the new labeling requirements and makes suggestions for what the FDA should be doing to improve upon the label. Be sure to check it out! If you want to visit Team Nutrition Genius and get in touch with Laura, click here.
BY LAURA LIGOS, MBA, RD | Over the past century we have relied less on our farmer, and become more dependent on our big food companies. With these food companies comes the need for marketing, packaging and so much more. When food is manipulated or added to in some way, it requires a label, and nobody likes labels. The current food label has not been touched in 20 years. Changes to the label need to be made; so what better time than now, a time when we have a giant health problem (or should I say sick problem) in this country.
The label is one of the most confusing marketing and education tools out there. As a dietitian I have been trained to teach my clients and patients what a label is, where to find it and what all the jargon means. One of the biggest problems with the food label designed by the FDA is it focuses on quantity over quality. Calories have always been the star of the show as far as the label was concerned. As a dietitian, I know most of my clients ONLY look to calories. When this obsession with calories occurs we completely forget that food is much more than numbers.
The new label comes with many subtle changes that will go unnoticed because most people do not look at the label, and those who do mostly miss the point. The calories are now being enlarged and bolded, to bring about more emphasis on an arbitrary number. We are now no longer concerned about Vitamins A and C as there are new bullies in town in the form of Vitamin D and Potassium. Now, do not get me wrong, I think vitamins and minerals are ESSENTIAL for your health. But this favoritism is focusing on numbers, not how these vitamins are needed in a synergistic way in your diet. I think the only useful part of a label is to show the ingredients or the quality of ingredients. But where is the proposed change to bold and emphasize them?!
Not only is the label getting a makeover but so are serving sizes. The FDA is now going to make you feel better about the serving size you consume since it is based on how much Americans eat anyway. Check out this infographic they provide to explain this concept. Yes, that’s right a 20 oz. soda is now considered 1 serving. I understand that they have the correct “quantity” listed in the form of calories to account for the change but where is the “quality” of the serving size listed. The FDA’s approach to the serving size just seems to say “go ahead and drink a full 20 oz. soda in one sitting. It’s the American way!”
While I agree the label needs an extreme makeover, I think the FDA is missing the point. Calories are not the end-all be-all. We need to realize that if we do not start focusing on the quality of the food we are consuming, we will never reach the state of health that we so desperately long for in the United States.
Check out my mark-up of the food label for my commentary and proposed changes!