According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2014), there are proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Label on the majority of packaged foods sold in this country. The idea behind this is for consumers to be better educated about the nutritional contents of their foods. One area of interest is added sugars. There will be an additional line on the food label that will state the number of grams of added sugars in the food product. Added sugars are sugars that are found in foods in addition to those naturally occurring in the product. The reasons for noting added sugars on the food label were based on recommendations to decrease intake of sugars from the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization. The recommendation to decrease calorie intake from solid fats and added sugars comes from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This recommendation was made because people today are consuming too many calories and not eating enough nutrient rich foods. From added sugars, often referred to as “empty calories,” Americans are obtaining 16 percent of their total, daily caloric intake. These added sugars provide no nutritional value to people’s diets. Another area of interest on the new nutrition facts label is calories from fat. The new nutrition label will no longer have “Calories from Fat” on it, but “Total Fat,” Saturated Fat,” and Trans Fat” will still appear on the label (U. S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA), 2014).
A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2010), found that for children ages two through eighteen, the majority of the calories in their diets came from pizza, grain desserts, soda and fruit drinks; these products account for 40% of the calories consumed by this age group. The recommended amount of discretionary calories for all age groups is eight to 20 percent of total calorie intake. Therefore, children are consuming between two to three times the amount of discretionary calories recommended. The researchers of this study concluded that the environment needed to change and provide children with more low calorie, healthy food choices (Reedy & Krebs-Smith, 2010).
In an effort to discover effective strategies to decrease the prevalence of childhood obesity, a 2005 national cross-sectional study of schools and students participating in the National School Lunch Program looked at the amount of calories children were consuming in sugar-sweetened beverages at school and at home. The results of this study were that students were consuming the majority of their “empty calories” from sugar-sweetened drinks at home. Since childhood obesity has such an impact on the mental, physical, and social health of the young people in our country, researchers from this study are recommending increased education for parents that would focus on the benefits of switching from sugar-sweetened beverages to unflavored, low-fat milk at meals and giving children water between meals (Briefel, Wilson, Cabili, & Dodd, 2013).
Overall, the concept of adding additional sugars and fats to foods seems illogical and unhealthy.
Both children and adults are consuming a considerable amount of empty calories every day, many of which are coming from sugary beverages and foods that are not nutrient rich. By taking away the calories from fat line on the nutritional labels, it seems that the FDA no longer thinks that calories from fat is important for consumers to note. The addition of the added sugars line, however, is a positive change on the nutritional labels because it informs consumers that these sugars were not originally in the product.
On both the current and proposed nutrition label, Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrates, and Dietary Fiber are given for 2,000 calorie and 2,500 calorie diets. This may be confusing to consumers and lead them to thinking this is the amount of calories they should be consuming. A surprising fact written by the weight-loss experts at Mayo Clinic is that the majority of women are only burning 1,700 to 2,000 calories a day and the majority of men burn 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day (Jensen, 2012 p.113) These figures show that the majority of people are burning far less than the 2,000 calorie and 2,500 calorie amounts noted on food labels. Granted, the amounted calories stated on food labels are based on what people are actually eating, and not what they should be eating; this only makes it that much harder for us as nutritionists to educate people on how many calories they really should be consuming per day.
The serving sizes on the current food labels are actually based on what people ate 20 years ago, before we had an obesity epidemic. To increase the amount of serving sizes to what people are actually eating today will only give people permission to eat more. This will happen because the majority of people do not know that these amounts are what they are actually consuming not what they should be consuming. According to the weight-loss experts at the Mayo Clinic, facts that we as nutritionists already know 1 vegetable serving = 1 baseball, 1 fruit serving = 1 tennis ball, 1 carbohydrate serving = 1 hockey puck, 1 protein/dairy = 1 deck of cards or less, and one fat serving = 1 to 2 dice (Wolf, 2012 p. 81).
The new food label proposal left me with some propelling thoughts. A positive thought is that the new food label is larger in size and easier for consumers to read. This may make consumers more aware of what they are eating. A negative thought is will the increased serving size be giving people permission to eat more? Even with the immediate costs for food companies to redo the food labels, will uneducated consumers be buying more products and increasing profits for the food companies and motivating them to manufacture more foods with added sugars and increased amounts of fats? With obesity on the rise, is it really the right move to increase the amount of serving sizes on food labels?
Reedy, J., & Krebs-Smith, S. M. (2010) Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the Dietetic Association,110(10), p. 1477. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.07.010
Briefel, R. R., Wilson, A., Cabili, C., & Dodds, A., H. (2013). Reducing calories and added sugars by improving children’s beverage choices. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(2), p.269 doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.10.016
Jensen, M. (2012). Understanding nutrition and weight control. In P. P. Good (Ed.), The Mayo Clinic Diet (p. 113). Intercourse, PA: Good Books.
Wolf, S. (2012). No food scales of calculators needed. In P. P. Good (Ed.), The Mayo Clinic Diet (p. 81). Intercourse, PA: Good Books.
Nutrition Labeling Assignment
NTR 221 Food Technology Trends
April 14, 2014