Impact of FDA changes to nutrition labels remains undetectable

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The old nutrition facts label, left, will be updated to reflect current serving sizes and things like added sugars as seen on the right.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed new changes for the 20-year-old nutritional label, a label that people see on most, if not all, food packages.

The changes have three goals: promote a better understanding of nutritional science, update the serving sizes of various foods to reflect what a typical American consumer actually eats today and refresh the label’s design.

In order to help people make more informed and better food choices, the new label puts more emphasis on total calories. The removal of “calories from fat” and addition of “added sugars” was designed to help achieve this goal.

I
think that (showing added sugars) is good,
Eugenio Bortone, senior principal scientist at R&D; Snacks at PepsiCo – Frito-Lay, said. “For me, it is excellent because I can see now the total amount
of refined sugars. It helps me make decisions quickly, instead of
putting on my glasses and reading the ingredient list.
(Now), if I see in the label that there is a six – more
than 6 grams of sugar in the product – I won’t eat it.”

As Bortone referenced, added sugars can now be easily picked out, whereas in the old nutrition label, they had to be estimated by the place in which sugar was listed in the ingredient list.

Tandalayo Kidd, associate professor in human nutrition, said she agreed with Bortone about the proposed section to show the added sugars in foods and beverages.

“My favorite (change) is the added sugars one,” Kidd said. “That’s the one that can get people
confused the most. Let’s say you have 100 percent juice versus a can of soda, and you look
at the sugar content. Depending on the serving size, they can be very
similar.”

More knowledge can lead to better decision making, Kidd said.

“So, if it just said sugar, you know it’s very easy to say, ‘Soda is
cheaper than juice, so I’m just going to drink the soda because sugar-wise they’re
similar.’ But the difference, of course,
is that 100 percent juice has naturally occurring sugar as opposed to soda which is
100 percent added sugar,” Kidd said.

Another proposed change to the nutritional label is the modification of the serving sizes. Bortone said this change may create a little bit of confusion, because foods that are measured by the cup may have completely different weights.

“A
cup may have different sizes, and that’s what I am not very comfortable with,” Bortone said. “A cup may
have the size of a liter, half a liter,
a quarter of a liter: who knows? As long as they mention the (weight), like it
used to be an ounce or 28 grams, it will be ok.”

The new label not only includes the new information, but is designed to reinforce it. Consumers will now see bolder and larger font for the calories count and servings per package.

Some, however, might wonder whether or not consumers will care, let alone notice the changes to nutritional labels.

“Yes, people do care,” Kidd said. “The reason they care is people are interested in knowing what
they’re eating. Now, they care in different levels. However, if you are a
teenager or a kid, maybe you don’t care. But there are people in our
population that may have some health issues
(that will care).”

Bortone, however, expressed doubt about whether or not people will care about the changes to nutritional labels.

Time
will decide,” Bortone said. “In my opinion, the information is always good as long as the
people know how to use it. If they do a campaign, advertising, explaining the
new levels, changes and why, and if they do that at school, then we can
see some positive results.”

Jane Fox, Manhattan resident, said she likes the old nutritional label better.

“One is free to choose what is important or not,” Fox said, making reference to the format changes that emphasize caloric count.

Fox said people might play a guilt trip on susceptible population groups, like young women who think their worth is measured by their body weight and overall physique.

“All in all, this is a good change,” Kidd said. “I think it is a good change, even if the change is
associated with the fact that it is in the spotlight.”

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