By: John Verlinden*/TRT Columnist—
You may have heard that the Food and Drug Administration is changing the nutrition labels that appear on the back of processed food items and wondered what all the fuss is about. While it’ll likely be a few years before we see changes (there is a public comment process, a final rule making process, and an implementation process to go through) they are something to cheer about.
It was 20 years ago this month that the current system came into being (the law giving FDA this authority passed in 1990, but final rules weren’t effective until May 1994). Despite major advances in our understanding of nutrition’s role in disease prevention and treatment, except for a few minor changes, the labels are pretty much the same today as they were then: difficult to read, time-consuming to decipher, and not very helpful for decision-making while shopping. [pullquote]When was the last time you shared a candy bar, stopped halfway through a small bag of chips, or put half of a 20 ounce soda back in the fridge for later?[/pullquote]
Exactly what will emerge after everyone weighs in on the issue is still unknown, but improvements the FDA proposes and that we hope to see include the following:
1) More realistic serving sizes that reflect the amounts people actually eat and drink in a single setting. When was the last time you shared a candy bar, stopped halfway through a small bag of chips, or put half of a 20 ounce soda back in the fridge for later?
2) The number of servings per container and calories per serving will be in larger print.
3) A new item will appear showing the amount of sugar that has been added as well as what is naturally occurring in the product.
4) Daily values for certain nutrients (sodium, vitamin D and dietary fiber) will be changed to reflect the latest science, and two nutrients (potassium and vitamin D) that are essential to good health, but which many Americans are deficient in will be added.
5) Percentages of daily values of nutrients will move to the left side of the label for easier identification.
While there’s still much more work to do to get our collective American waistlines under control, these changes are a step in the right direction. Yay FDA!
Until next time – ¡Mucho Gusto!, ¡Muchas Gracias! y ¡Buen Provecho!