New changes to the FDA’s Nutrition Facts label could have you rethinking that bowl of Häagen-Dazs you were planning on enjoying tonight.
For the first time in over 20 years, the Administration recently announced plans to overhaul the Nutrition Facts label so that it’s easier for consumers to read. Until now, the label has been confusing at best. With the proposed changes, serving sizes will reflect current American eating trends.
Back when the Nutrition Facts label was first created, portions were based on the pre-super-sized era of the 1970s and ‘80s. So today, a serving size of ice cream would change from a half cup to a more realistic full cup. That means your Häagen-Dazs Cookies & Cream will soon go from 250 calories per serving to 500. Ouch!
But that’s not all for the FDA label transformation…
The other big change will be listing added sugars, which are put in during the food production process (versus naturally occurring sugars). If Americans were in denial about overdosing on sugar before… now hidden sugars will be out in the open.
The American Heart Association recommends just 9.5 teaspoons per day. Most adults blow past that (probably before lunch) with an average daily intake of 22 teaspoons, and kids are weighing in at a whopping 32 teaspoons per day! No wonder childhood obesity is still considered an epidemic.
And since most Americans meet the daily requirement for vitamins A and C, it makes no sense to require them on the label anymore. Therefore, the Administration is swapping them out for vitamin D and potassium. Vitamin D is important for bone health. And potassium serves to lower blood pressure –something important in a heart disease-prone nation.
While the FDA is at it, it could afford to take a few lessons from some European countries, which require at-a-glance labeling on the front of the package using a simple star rating – so parents and individuals can easily determine what’s good for them and their family.
Unfortunately, we haven’t made it that far… yet. But progress – whether small or big – is still a victory.
And for every great change, there’s also a price…
The GMA Quietly Calculates the Cost
For now, the food industry is playing nice after hearing the proposed changes. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) stated after the announcement, “We look forward to working with the FDA and other stakeholders.” But the word is, behind closed doors, they’re very unhappy and are preparing for a major pushback…
This should come as no surprise – considering the current fight to add GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling in California and Washington. In Washington alone, food industry groups raised a record-breaking $22 million to defeat the new labeling initiative there.
Some experts are citing that the changes to the Nutrition Facts label could cost the food industry upwards of $2 billion. It’s not so much the process of changing the printed labels that’s costly. After all, food manufacturers have no problem adding the labels that they want to add. But, the cost may come from a new, informed consumer. Back in 2006, when the FDA added trans fats to the label, many companies quickly reduced the amount that they added to their foods.
Reformulating foods could cost the food industry billions, but if the new Nutrition Facts label changes eating habits, as is hoped, that could save the healthcare industry many more billions over time.
Many opponents, however, warn that the costs associated with making the label changes will be passed on to consumers.
Bottom line: This new Nutrition Facts label is expected to be in place within the next two years, whether the food industry likes it or not. Only time will tell if all the changes go through and if the consumers end up getting smacked with a higher grocery bill, or if the food industry will just bite the bullet.