FDA Reveals New Nutrition Label!
I AM SO EXCITED.
The FDA revealed their new plans for the nutrition label! This is very exciting (unless you don't even look at them, in which you could probably care less).
And they even have this beautiful, simple graphic to discuss the changes. Let me break it down a little bit though, and point out where I think some people may get confused, as well as discuss the big controversy that people think needs to be addressed.
Servings - Larger, bolder type. Pretty self-explanatory.
Serving Sizes (Updated) - Remember all those times you ate a carton of ice cream and then realized it was actually 6 servings? Rightfully, you ignored it and continued on. But this has been a problem in the industry for awhile, small serving sizes in order to get 0g trans fat on the label (which really means <0.5g per serving) and keep the calories/fat/sugar/etc low. The FDA is asking for more realistic serving sizes. That being said, what we consider "realistic" versus the industry will be interesting to watch play out.
Calories - Larger type. That's great and all, but we don't want people to only focus on calories. Calories are a good thing that give us energy! Sometimes we just consume a little too many.
Updated Daily Values - This means that all the changes that have been going on with cholesterol recommendations, salt intake recommendations, and fat intake recommendations will now be reflected in the label. They should honestly do this more often, but better late than never.
New Added Sugars - YES. YES. I'm so excited about this! Not even necessarily because I'm concerned about added sugars, but because it will pressure the industry to have less of them. You don't want your new realistic serving size to have all added sugar right? However, they might get creative using more "natural sugar" through fruit or something, complicating the issue further. Also, I guess I am a little concerned about my added sugar intake :)
Change in Nutrients Required/Actual Amounts Declared - The big thing here is the change with adding vitamin D. We've gotten rid of Vitamin A and Vitamin C because those are very low risk deficiencies in the United States. Vitamin D on the other hand has been linked with obesity and other current health issues, and everyone north of Atlanta can't produce it from the sun October-March. Potassium is new down in that area on the label, but it was usually just listed in the upper part. Also, daily values. Until now, unless you were a dietitian or cared about specific nutrients (chronic kidney disease anyone?), those nutrients at the bottom probably didn't mean much. After all they sometimes have different units altogether, so how are you supposed to know? The FDA to the rescue. Admittedly, the daily values aren't useful for everyone, but under that consideration none of them are. It's certainly better than nothing!
New Footnote - The wording changed in this little sentence, which reads weirdly to me, but the main difference is the lack of the little table discussing saturated fat and a few other components.
I think the added sugars might be slightly confusing at first. It says "Includes 10g of added sugar," but the first thing I questioned was, does this mean plus 10g or 12g was part of it? Like I said, brief confusion, but if people spent a minute contemplating it, I think they will understand. I'm not sure if people will be impacted by serving size very much either, but it's a step in the right direction to point it out. One thing to consider though - increasing serving sizes to "reasonable portions"... or is that just accommodating the unreasonable portions we consume?
The big hooplah surrounding this that I've seen on social media relates to GMO labeling. People are questioning why that wasn't addressed - but really that's not the job of the nutrition label, because most GMOs are nutritionally identical to their non-GMO counterparts. Tomatoes might be redder or hold up better for transport, watermelons may be seedless, but it's still the same food. I'm not taking a stance on labeling either way, but the demand on GMO labeling is an entirely separate issue, not to be complained about where the FDA is attempting to make strides.
Circling around back to the calories, people are taking issue with just how big the font is. The Atlantic comments on this saying, "We are doing this even while we know that imploring people to simply eat less has repeatedly proven to be an ineffective approach to obesity." This article goes on to further discuss the "Added Sugar" piece which is by far the most controversial stating, "But the sugar that comes from fruit is just not healthier—not different in any substantive way—from the sugar that comes from sugarcane. And this misunderstanding is exactly how food producers will exploit this rule. They will add apple juice or agave to everything that kids (especially kids) eat, and then their product will technically have no “added sugars,” even when they have a lot of added sugars." Similar to my point made above. Another point people are throwing out - why even have a label at all, since it hasn't reduced health problems since it was implemented? Obviously correlation is not causation - I don't think those kind of sweeping statements can be made considering we barely had internet in the 90s and now if google doesn't load fast enough on our phones we get frustrated. How else are diabetics supposed to count carbohydrates to prevent hypoglycemia? CKD patients can't see potassium easily, and CVD patients can't see salt.
In my opinion, sure, there are issues. Most of the time that's the case with government projects. But I think it's going in the right direction. As someone who will have to explain this new label over and over again throughout my career, I give it one thumbs up.