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New Product Labels

Guess what’s coming to the grocery store shelves near you?  A new food label!  It has been designed to help you learn more about what you’re eating….well, kind of.  The Nutrition Facts Panel is 20 years old and is apparently in need of a facelift.

Among the major changes: The new labels would replace out-of-date serving sizes, highlight calorie content and draw attention to “added sugars.”

Currently, manufacturers can list nutrition facts for serving sizes much smaller than people typically consume. For example, a 20 ounce bottle of soda is really 2.5 servings but if you look at the calories listed, it would be for one serving.  Most people don’t think about the additional calories while they are consuming the rest of the bottle.

Calorie content will be featured more prominently.  Labels would also need to show the amount of “added sugars” in a food product to help people distinguish between the natural sugars found in fruit and milk, for instance, and sugars added in.

These changes are to address obesity, which is of course a very important concern in public health today. What people eat and how much they consume have changed in the last 20 years and the labels are a way to address these new issues.

Additional changes include:

  • Potassium and vitamin D will be listed on labels.  Food makers could also include vitamins A and C but they will no longer be required. 
  • “Daily values” for various nutrients such as salt, dietary fiber and vitamin D will be revised. 
  • Total Fat, Saturated Fat and Trans Fat will remain on the labels but Calories from Fat will no longer be required since it is believed that the type of fat is more important than the amount. 

So, it would appear that emphasis is being placed on calories, serving size and percent of daily value in select vitamins and minerals.

There have been other changes in the last 20 years.  There have been hundreds of new chemicals, additives, flavorings, preservatives, dyes and packaging materials that are new and included in each packaged food item.  Why isn’t there a line item for these?  Will these chemicals be included in the ingredient list?

People may be concerned about calories they get from these foods, but perhaps they should be more concerned about the toxins they are consuming.  Whether it is BPA, parabens, food dyes or the hundreds of other chemicals that have found their way into packages, bottles, cans and jars, people have much more to be concerned about than mere calories.  Everyday new research is being cited that links toxins to serious illnesses like cancer. These are the exact toxins found in the foods on the grocery store shelves.

The estimates for the cost of the label changes to the food industry will be around $2 billion.  Instead of putting that money into labels that only address obesity, wouldn’t it be great if they would re-invest those dollars to create foods that contain no dangerous additives as well as packaging that only serve as storage containers and not as dangerous, xeno-estrogen producing additions to the food?

The FDA has given the public 90 days to refute their new labels.  Maybe we should let them know what we think should be on those labels.  What do you think?

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