TLR's Nutrition Label Recommendations

Last Friday we found out that the FDA and White House are finally about to announce the newly updated Nutrition Facts label on food and beverages. Yesterday, The Lempert Report commented on the proposed updates and now wants to offer some suggestions.

January 29, 2014

Last Friday we found out that the FDA and White House are finally about to announce the newly updated Nutrition Facts label on food and beverages. Yesterday, The Lempert Report commented on the proposed updates and now wants to offer some suggestions.

Clear allergy labeling:
Six to eight percent of kids and around four percent of adults suffer from some sort of allergy or food intolerance. Although manufacturers are required by law to declare the presence of the eight major allergens, there are still flaws. For example, the labels that state a product was processed in a facility with X allergen. Can consumers really trust that?

Sugar, added vs. natural:
Nutrition Facts state the amount of total sugars per serving but do not indicate whether the sugars are added, occur naturally, or are a combination of the two. Sugars are sugars (i.e., sugar, corn syrup, HFCS or honey) once it enters the body in terms of its caloric significance. But whether it's naturally occurring or added is the actual game changer. The effect of consuming foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruit, vegetables, milk and grain products, is very different than added sugars, because sugars occurring in their natural state come packaged with the added benefits of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals that whole foods provide. Sometimes added sugars are empty calories and have no benefit to our health. Nutrition facts should distinguish between the two.  

Zero plus zero should equal zero:
Since when did zero trans fats plus zero trans fats not equal zero? Products containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fats or other fats, or a whole host of other nutrients per serving are legally allowed to report that the product contains zero. But what happens when you eat more than one serving (like many people do)? The industry claims that these 'free' and zero claims are allowed when a food is free of a nutrient or if the amount is so small, and thus considered 'dietetically trivial or physiologically insignificant.' The amount is also believed to be physiologically insignificant even if a person eats several servings. Either reformulate or let consumers know what they are really eating.

Ingredients, real ingredients please:
Consumers need not be duped by long ingredient lists in which they are not even able to understand half of what's in their foods.  Consumers should be able to define each component of their foods. Maybe the solution is to use less ingredients or to disclose which ingredients are preservatives, coloring agents and flavoring agents. The abundance of these in our food supply might just get consumers to eat healthier when they realize that their food is not actually food!

Would you like some caffeine with that?
There are various products, aside from coffee, colas, energy drinks or teas, that do in fact contain caffeine. There are many people who try to avoid the jolting foods, but as a consumer, these foods or beverages are almost impossible to identify. What about those double chocolate fudge brownies or those chocolate mocha chip cookies? If consumers knew how much caffeine was in the foods they were eating, they might restrict intake to certain times of the day as not to affect their mood or disrupt sleep habits. Caffeine labeling should be mandatory for all foods and beverages.

Overall, the idea is to cut the confusion and make it simple for consumers to choose foods that are appropriate for their dietary needs and health desires. Let's hope the FDA keeps it simple as they overhaul the Nutrition Facts panel.

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