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Nutrition Facts Label Set for Change


By +Carolyn Richardson on Nov 26, 2011 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

Almost 20 years ago the Nutrition Facts label was introduced.  Before then, an ingredient list was the only information on the package for consumers to use. Enter the internet and sites like ours and increased awareness of the nutritional value of food is the result. Now it’s time for an overhaul. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to change the label to reflect make them more useable for consumers.  The new proposed rule for Nutrition Facts labels is set to be released next year.

The Whole Label

While consumers may think they have a discriminating eye for Nutrition Facts labels, a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests otherwise. Many consumers simply do not read the whole Nutrition Facts label. Consumers’ reports of reading the calories, fat content, etc. didn’t jive with an objective eye-tracking device in a simulated shopping experience. Data shows that participants focused more on the top of the label than the bottom and viewed the first five lines of nutrition information most. However, the results were inconsistent, showing only 9% observed the calorie counts of most products, an item at the top of the Nutrition Facts label. The study also found that centrally located labels are viewed more thoroughly than peripherally positioned labels.  The findings call for the overhaul that is in the works.

Serving Size vs. Package Size

Food manufacturers’ use of serving sizes are reported to be part of the changes made. Currently serving sizes are determined by food manufacturers with guidelines from the FDA including the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed chart.  Despite this regulation, many products that appear to be single serving packages display multiple servings per package. Some of the typical products that have misleading serving sizes are beverages, pizza, frozen meals, and ready-to-eat snack foods. The challenge in changing serving sizes however is in balancing the enormous increase in portion sizes in the last few decades and displaying reasonable serving sizes for staying within recommended caloric intake.

Percent Daily Values

Percent daily values are also set to be addressed with the changes.  Currently, they are based on a daily intake of 2000 calories. However, the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reports the average American male consumes 2475 calories and 1833 for females. Considering that over half of Americans are overweight, the 2000-calorie recommendation for healthy adults does not hold. On the flip side, those consuming a restricted calorie diet need much less of a nutrient than a label may list. A food that has less than 5 percent daily value of a nutrient is considered low, while one that has 20 percent daily value or more is considered a high value. Because percent daily values vary greatly depending on caloric intake, they may not be used in the future label.

More Nutrient Information   

In addition to the macronutrients - fat, protein, and carbohydrates, the current label lists sodium and cholesterol and the micronutrients - iron, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. To give consumers a bigger picture of the nutritional value of foods, an expansion of the nutrient list is on the horizon. As some manufacturers already list it, potassium and magnesium may be added as a requirement, as well as vitamins D, E, and K.


Your thoughts…

How would you improve the Nutrition Facts label? Do you find daily percentages helpful or confusing?



Comments


All who understand the nutritional values and daily intakes CANNOT be mislead. Blame their primary school and math!

Additional labels are welcome, but personally, I cannot find half the data for what I consume (not all of us are labeled bag buyers). I could number an extensive list of items only covered by "selected" manufacturers.

I also don't support additional data on labels, as that would deffer (initially for sure)  consumers from buying less comprehensive, but often healthier, products - JUST BECAUSE they can find the USUAL brands on this site.

Start adding additional data for existing products as soon as you add data for "generic" products.

Shame on CC. I didn't expect this much commercialism! I'm seriously considering to abandon the site. (BTW, I've blocked all the flash adds!, so you'll earn nothing from my visits from now on ).



Daily percentages are confusing and mean nothing, as it is based on a generic person.  Actual mg, or Meq  listings are better.

Amounts of Potassium, D, E, and K, are important to know for most people with chronic illness or on medications. I am glad they are now going to list this critical info.



As a devoted calorie counter, I find the daily percentages to be a great way to gauge the true nutritional value of food.  Which is not to say that I budget my daily intake based on those percentages, but in most cases I seek out foods that are high in protein/carbs and low in fat.  The percentages give a good idea of how certain foods will factor into my overall diet - if I want to have something in particular for one of my meals, then I may have to eat something else during the day to balance it.  I'm also a fan of the way nutritional labels break down the macronutrients to let you know whether you're getting the 'good' fat or the 'bad' fat, soluble or insoluble fibers, and the likes. 

I think trying to plan your meals by daily percentages would be confusing, but it is still helpful in the long run.



I agree with 'cyndrn' and 'presidian_vox. I believe that all the information I can get is potentially useful. Also, having standardized serving sizes would be good. I do not have great trust in corporations, and therefore a level playing field is desirable.



Standardised serving sizes clearly labelled would be very useful for the vast majority of the population.  All too often they are printed small. (yes I know I need to wear my glasses to read)  Main point is when purchasing things like cereals at the grocery store it's easier if you don't have to struggle to read and then make healthier choices. 

D1018... many people need/choose to use at least a portion of their grocery purchases as ready prepared/canned or  packaged goods... please think of those who buy pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, beans etc.  Anything that helps people access the information they need to eat healthier is welcome.  Also, it is useful when buying fresh  and making dishes when this info is available with fruit and veg, meats that we will make into meals. 



I do believe, however, that standard serving sizes is a real copout for the food companies.  I can't count the number of times I've been misled as to the real caloric value of things like a can of soup, or a package of frozen food.  I'm the kind of guy who will have a can of soup for a meal, or half a package of some frozen side dish. Chips are another bad culprit for this - we'd all eat a whole lot less if we knew the truth about how many calories are in one of those bags.  And I don't appreciate having to guesstimate the actual calories in a 288ml can when the 'standard serving size' is 125mL.  Just tell me how many calories total are in what I'm buying, and I'll do my own math if I'm not going to eat it all at once.



I don't count calories, only eyeball percentages of salt, and try to scan the ingredient list for poison, carcinogens, and things that aren't real food.

Labeling food as "genetically modified or not," or "brought to us by Monsanto or not," would be infinitely more helpful than labeling food with percentages and Recommendations that are practically meaningless.

 

Oh, but the percentage of how much of the food is cardboard would probably be a big help, too.



I would love to see the label color coded: items in the serving size that are HIGHER or LOWER than recommended for healthy nutrition in RED. That would be useful!!



or what about when they tell you the serving size is in grams or ml or oz when  it states some other kind of measurement in the box or can,  

and tuna always tricks me,  with the oil, with out the oil, drained weight its all a bit hard and I love math and numbers

maybe i enjoy figuring out all this stuff but other people might hate it



I use nutrition labels a lot and do read them.  However, I don't truly trust them.  I have seen receipes that list the nutrition facts, and have copied the receipe to use it and out of curiosity typed in the ingredients into your program and the nutrition label that came up was different from what the recipe showed.  So----which one do you trust, the one printed with the recipe, or what was calculated by your site (which I use often).  I know they are just a guide, but when you are trying to diet and have dietary restrictions, you need accuracy.  Also what is the serving size?  Is it 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 1-1/2 cup?  When the lable gives the info for 4 servings, you are left guessing what the serving size actually is.



Recently my husband found that he needs to limit his intake of phosphorus and potassium.  Very few labels give the phosphorus content of a product.  I would like to see these two ingredients on every food or drink label.



I have recently been going to a course taught by a nutritionist.  She has taught us how to decode the nutrition label.  It is amazing how much you can actually figure out!  I had before focused primarily on calories, fat, and sodium, but now I know how to read so much more of it and determine the HEALTH of a product, not just those few things.

I do think more standard serving sizes would be great.  It can be depressing to learn how many servings are actually in one tiny container!  And why not add more info?  If people really want to know about the nutrition of a product they will learn how to read it.  And as several people noted, some people need the additional info.

And, d1018, if you can't find the brand you want on this site, try some other sites.  That's what I do.  And I can usually find that item on another site.  There are so many sites out there.  And once you know how much that product is, make note of it so you can use it again.  It's not hard; it just takes some extra effort.  But, remember it is worth it!



In addition to all other current information, nutrition labels should have an overall grade (A-F) on them that takes into consideration everything on the label.  A simple way for busy parents to allow their children to say...pick out their own cereal.  You could say to your child....you may choose anything with an A or B on it.  Instead of trying to discuss with them regarding, fiber, fat (good fat/bad fat), salt, sugar, etc. etc. etc all while you are on the cereal isle.

I am fully aware the food lobbies will never allow this, but I can dream. 



Can they have restaurants and the like post nutrition labels? Or at least just the calorie content of dishes? If we want America to pay attention to their nutritional intake, maybe just knowing that their appetizer, entree, side dish, dessert, and drink for dinner adds up to a week's worth of calories would have people think twice.

and personally, I think fast food chains should have to post side effects of eating their foods, like the alcohol/tobacco warning labels or something, but that's just my opinion ;)


Original Post by: karenanoble

In addition to all other current information, nutrition labels should have an overall grade (A-F) on them that takes into consideration everything on the label.  A simple way for busy parents to allow their children to say...pick out their own cereal.  You could say to your child....you may choose anything with an A or B on it.  Instead of trying to discuss with them regarding, fiber, fat (good fat/bad fat), salt, sugar, etc. etc. etc all while you are on the cereal isle.

I am fully aware the food lobbies will never allow this, but I can dream. 


I think you need to be careful when labeling foods as "good" and "bad." Perhaps you can give a food a grade based on individual components (for example, canned soup might get an "F" with regards to sodium, but an "A" when it comes to saturated fat). People have unique needs when it comes to macro- and micronutrients, so it's a poor practice to lump all of its traits into a single evaluation.



Requiring potassium amounts would be very helpful to me.



What drives me crazy is the "transfat free" or "no hydrogenated fat" when the product has those in it - just a tiny amount in the serving size.  So if you eat more than the serving size you are eating those things - which I think are evil!



Personally, I believe they need to add the Glycemic Index (GI),   This is very helpful especially for persons with diabetes.  There are so many people who don' t know the VALUE of the GI when it comes to the blood glucose levels.



Yes! In light of the fact that nutritionists push the GI rating of foods as a way of controling blood sugar I think adding the GI rating to labels would be wonderful!



It would be helpful if the serving size were listed in larger print. Serving size 1/2 can, so you can see that a full can is double.



Original Post by: mparkhill

I have recently been going to a course taught by a nutritionist.  She has taught us how to decode the nutrition label.  It is amazing how much you can actually figure out!  I had before focused primarily on calories, fat, and sodium, but now I know how to read so much more of it and determine the HEALTH of a product, not just those few things.

I do think more standard serving sizes would be great.  It can be depressing to learn how many servings are actually in one tiny container!  And why not add more info?  If people really want to know about the nutrition of a product they will learn how to read it.  And as several people noted, some people need the additional info.

And, d1018, if you can't find the brand you want on this site, try some other sites.  That's what I do.  And I can usually find that item on another site.  There are so many sites out there.  And once you know how much that product is, make note of it so you can use it again.  It's not hard; it just takes some extra effort.  But, remember it is worth it!


Or, d1018 can do what I do and not use the pre-done things on the site and enter in what the label is on their package of food they consumed themselves. I usually only use the site to find the nutritional value of fruits, veggies and meats. If it has a nutritional label.. I take the 2 minutes it takes to enter it in, I have a custom list of foods that I eat.. because people usually by the same thing over and over again.



Original Post by: d1018

All who understand the nutritional values and daily intakes CANNOT be mislead. Blame their primary school and math!

Additional labels are welcome, but personally, I cannot find half the data for what I consume (not all of us are labeled bag buyers). I could number an extensive list of items only covered by "selected" manufacturers.

I also don't support additional data on labels, as that would deffer (initially for sure)  consumers from buying less comprehensive, but often healthier, products - JUST BECAUSE they can find the USUAL brands on this site.

Start adding additional data for existing products as soon as you add data for "generic" products.

Shame on CC. I didn't expect this much commercialism! I'm seriously considering to abandon the site. (BTW, I've blocked all the flash adds!, so you'll earn nothing from my visits from now on ).


I believe the issue was for finding and purchasing good food to eat in the stores and fail to see how that constitutes CC commercialism.

The adds help keep CC a free site and good for you for blocking them which is what everyone can do for comfort. Don't think CC earns anything from ads; they just support a free site.



I think it would be great if the FDA required additional nutrients such as the ones you listed (potassium and magnesium may be added as a requirement, as well as vitamins D, E, and K.)  I find that many times these nutrients are omitted from the labels.

I find most packages do state what the serving size is.  I actually prefer to buy larger packages and measure out the servings.

I glance at the percentages, but don't solely rely on them for daily meal planning.  The reasoning is the same as stated in your article... different people have different caloric intakes and the percentages are usually based on a set 2000 calories.  I feel I would miss the percentages if they were absent from the labeling.

Bottom line for me is that I would like to keep all the information that is currently on the nutrition labels and add more to it.  Knowledge is power.



Original Post by: tadpole185

Original Post by: karenanoble

In addition to all other current information, nutrition labels should have an overall grade (A-F) on them that takes into consideration everything on the label.  A simple way for busy parents to allow their children to say...pick out their own cereal.  You could say to your child....you may choose anything with an A or B on it.  Instead of trying to discuss with them regarding, fiber, fat (good fat/bad fat), salt, sugar, etc. etc. etc all while you are on the cereal isle.

I am fully aware the food lobbies will never allow this, but I can dream. 


I think you need to be careful when labeling foods as "good" and "bad." Perhaps you can give a food a grade based on individual components (for example, canned soup might get an "F" with regards to sodium, but an "A" when it comes to saturated fat). People have unique needs when it comes to macro- and micronutrients, so it's a poor practice to lump all of its traits into a single evaluation.


Why not grade BOTH (overall and individual components)?  I do not believe it is a "poor practice" to give an overall grade to something especially since we eat the product as a whole.  People with unique needs can do their specific research.  

I think it would be harder for ppl to justify buying something that is low in fiber, high in fats/sugar/sodium and just generally lacking in nutrition if it had an easy to read BAD grade on it.  My guess is the food companies might strive a little harder to improve the content of their product if it had a glaring F placed on it's nutrition label!  



Hi - some thoughts from "Down under" Here in Australia we have the following 1 mandatory labeling - even importers have to stick one on to sell 2 Total values - all the numbers for the total amount in the box or pack! 3 Serving size values - a number showing how many servings in the back AND the weight for each serving and 4 Values for 100gm - I love this it means you can compare different size packs/brands and really see comparison!


The food label is very confusing. 

The RDA's are easily confused with the maximum recommended amounts. Both are set by a committee that often have confilct of interests. 

There is no differentiation for children, diseased or older people. 

There are no numbers for eating whole packages as described before. 

When one serving is amall enough to circumvent the rule for reporting ( such as fat under 1 g) A fat amount should reflect multiple servings or whole package eating. When you happen to spray more than 1/5 of a second of butter or oil, it would appear that fat is still zero. Of course it is not.

Allowance is not made for water.

Sodium 2400 maximum is at least double what it should be for most of the population. etc.etc.

I could go on.....



As opposed to using percentages of daily vales, actual values should be used. Everybody's diet is different, so it'll be more convenient and logical for there to be actual values so that everybody can use these values for themselves.



I don't have any problems with the way the nutritional label is now. My problem is the ingredients list. If a product list "natural" flavorings, they should be forced to state the source of that natural flavoring. As an aspiring Vegan, I always assume that natural means of meat/animal origin. Then I put it right back on the shelf.

 



I am in agreement with the comments of presidian_vox.  So many times I have read the info and thought; "Okay, so what about this nutrient or that nutrient.  I know its in there but it is not listed."  And entering it on sites like this makes entries inaccurate at best.

Also, since I can't consume 2000 calories a day - the percents don't pertain to me.

That's my soapbox for the day. . .

Have a great day.



Don't take away percent daily value. I would rather go by something than nothing

 



I think the most helpful change to nutrional labels would be an agreed upon serving size, preferably by weight (i.e. 1 oz., 30 grams, etc...) for similar foods (i.e. cereals, grains, meats, etc...) so we can make easier comparisons on similar type foods. And having one agreed upon site for realiable research and comparisons.  Thanks! 



i would love to know why the government in the states always complicates things. here in south africa every nutritional lable has a column for nutrition per 100g. i would really love it if more products could show kcal and not just kj, though.



I would not want any of the present nutrition information taken away from the food labels. I am the kind of person who reads all labels before I purchase anything and am likely to put products back on the shelf if they are too high in ANY of the macronutrients, as I look to balance each meal of the day or make up for the imbalance of one. I even have my 3 young children (11, 10 and 7) reading labels and making choices with me, or when they go to friends homes (I admit it can be a bit embarrassing, but deep inside am proud that they ask!).

Would I like more information? Maybe. I would like to see a standard and easy measurement for portions, such as per cup (or quarter cup) or per tablespoon. I can easily take a measuring cup and serve myself, versus trying to get a gram measurement for any type of food - it would make my life easier!

My ultimate win would be if restaurants were forced to print the basic nutritional information of their dishes, not just calories, but also fat (all types), carbohydrates (and details), and protein. Sure, it may take some of the fun out of "going out", which I enjoy doing, but I am the type of person who would pick a plate based on that information. I certainly would make healthier and smarter choices, and I may not just opt for a "SALAD with the dressing on the side" - I would at least know exactly where I am sinning and by how much!

Bottom line for me (and my family) is that I READ LABELS ALL THE TIME AND I CAN DO MY OWN MATH TOO and will if I have to.



Yea, I can do the math, but when you eat something that is packaged as a single serving - a 4 inch diameter chicken pot pie for instance - and the calorie content is 310, I think "great, I can have this, its nutritious, filling and not overly loaded with calories" - then I see the serving size is 2 per pie.  The pie is a single serve pie, not meant to be shared by 2 people or eaten in half serving so yea, that pisses me off.  I like to know the ingredients, the calories and the sodium. As to the vitamin/mineral content--I really could care less but its fine to include it.

 



sounds good to me.  i have eaten what i thought was a normal sized muffin, only to discover after it is too late that it is a two serving muffin, and 400 calories instead of 200.  tricked me once...



laprinsipessa is right. Give me the values per some unit weight and let me figure out the serving size.  I use the posted serving size to figure out how much of the package I want to consume.  Why not just do it by weight or volume?  Percent of RDA is a waste of space on the label.  I really don't care what some "expert" thinks I should have, based on some changing food fad and how some committee felt that morning.  Most of us are smart enough to figure out what we are consuming given the basic information.



The RDA are just recommendations and we (CC members) all know that individuals vary in caloric need based on age, health, exercise level etc. so they do seem superfluous.



Original Post by: d1018

All who understand the nutritional values and daily intakes CANNOT be mislead. Blame their primary school and math!

Additional labels are welcome, but personally, I cannot find half the data for what I consume (not all of us are labeled bag buyers). I could number an extensive list of items only covered by "selected" manufacturers.

I also don't support additional data on labels, as that would deffer (initially for sure)  consumers from buying less comprehensive, but often healthier, products - JUST BECAUSE they can find the USUAL brands on this site.

Start adding additional data for existing products as soon as you add data for "generic" products.

Shame on CC. I didn't expect this much commercialism! I'm seriously considering to abandon the site. (BTW, I've blocked all the flash adds!, so you'll earn nothing from my visits from now on ).


No kidding.  If you have trouble with a label, it means you aren't reading it closely enough OR not read it fully!  

CC, it seems like you continually plug different causes.  I agree with d1018.



so in my opinion the percent daily values are worthless because people have different calorie needs.

for labels for products, it should be mandated that the entire content is listed. ie-that big bag of potato chips has 1400 calories. i know simple math is all that is needed for working it out yourself, but something needs to be done to create a health conscious America. i know very few people who eat the serving size, which is around 16 chips usually, but what the hell is 16 chips, it leaves room for confusion. the smaller the serving size listed, the less information companies are required to put on the label. i love the ideas posted.



whether a product contains gluten and / or contains genetically modified ingredients are 2 additions I would make

also - if the container can't be closed (think bottled drinks at the deli counter, for one) then the label should reflect the total calories, etc in the container - the '2.5 servings per container' for a 16 oz beverage is just tedious



I really don't think people know how much calories they eat per day.  Some people's daily foods consists of burgers, fries and pizza which are not only bad calories but have a load of them.  A person eating 2000 calories of whole foods like veggies, light protein and low cal whole grain food will lose weight vs. someone eating 2000 cals of bad foods like pizza, hamburger etc.  Your body reacts differently to bad and good calories.  I have learned that throughout my calorie counting experience and have lost weight eating good foods anywhere from 1800-2000 calories a day.  But I am also not the average woman.  I strength train hard and regularly along with at least 20-30 mins of cardio intervals with my training.  So I was told 1800-2000 is not enough for me, everyone's opinion is different.  I lost 9 lbs in 2 1/2 weeks on my whole food diet...which is a lot in that amount of time.



Very good suggestion!



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