You may have heard on the news recently that there are changes coming to nutritional labels. The changes are still pending but this article from CNN says:
If approved, the new labels would place a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients such as Vitamin D and potassium.
The article also states:
The FDA is also proposing changes to serving size requirements in an effort to more accurately reflect what people usually eat or drink. For example, if you buy a 20 ounce soda, you’re probably not going to stop drinking at the 8 ounce mark. The new rules would require that entire soda bottle to be one serving size, making calorie counting simpler.
So what do these changes mean for you? And will they make an impact on overall nutrition habits?
Current Label Standards
Current nutritional labels look something like this:
A serving size is given as well as calories, calories from fat, and some other basic nutrition information. The label tells the consumer the serving size and how many servings are in each container. Here’s what the new, proposed label would look like:
Proposed Label Changes
The new labels will better reflect the actual amount that’s eaten in one sitting. Like the article stated, when most people buy a 20 oz soda, they don’t stop drinking it at 8 oz like the serving size recommends. Ice cream is another great example–the recommended serving size for most ice creams is 1/2 a cup. I’d guess that only 5% of people pay attention to that; others likely eat anywhere from 1-2 cups of ice cream in a single sitting. This is one proposed change that I think is a great idea–going back to the soda example, I think many people may glance at the calories and see that an 8 oz serving is “only” 250 calories, so they don’t think twice about it. However, if they saw that the full 20 oz contained 625 calories they may be more likely to choose a healthier beverage.
The amount of calories on the new labels will be much bigger and “calories from fat” will not be listed. Having a bigger font for the calorie count may help draw people’s eyes to the calorie count immediately and if the calories show a more accurate serving size people will have a better idea of what they are eating.
Another proposed change is listing added sugars. Some foods contain natural sugars but there’s no way of knowing on a label what sugar is naturally occurring and what is added. Consumers will have a better idea of how much added sugar is in their food when looking at the new labels.
Other proposed ideas include changes to the daily values for certain nutrients and changes in what nutrients are listed. Our “old label” example displays vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. Our “new label” example displays vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium.
Could More Be Done?
Recognizing that a change needed to be made was a good first step. And some of the proposed changes are good–listing added sugars, making serving sizes more realistic….but could more be done?
One major thing that we think needs improvement is GMO labeling. We all have a right to know what’s in our food, including GMOs. With this push for new labels it would be easier for companies to include GMO labeling since they’ll already be incurring the costs of changing the labels.
Why Should GMOs be Labeled?
First and foremost, people have a right to know what’s in their food!
- There is growing evidence that suggestions GMO consumption may be linked it auto-immune diseases, infertility, digestive disorders and cancer!
- If GMOs aren’t labeled it makes it more difficult to track their health impacts and hold individuals accountable for what’s in their products.
- Animal studies have shown that GMOs cause sterility within three generations!
- GMO corn contains its own pesticide inside the plant that cannot be washed off before it is eaten.
- GMOs are NOT the same as their non-GMO counterparts, nutritionally or compositionally.
Ultimately, I don’t foresee these label changes having a huge impact on the overall population. The changes seem relatively minor and I think those who have always paid attention to what they eat will continue to do so, regardless of how a label looks.
What are your thoughts? What else would you like to see on nutrition labels?
Edit: After reading more about the proposed changes I noticed another major flaw in their design. Let’s use diet sodas as an example. Diet soda has no calories and no sugar so the label of a diet soda would read “0,” making it appear as though it’s a better choice. However, we all know the dangers of diet sodas and other diet foods. So how do we go about showing these dangers on the actual food label? Perhaps, in addition to GMO labeling we need to include labeling for harmful chemicals in diet sodas and other foods too.
What are your ideas?