Category Archives: nutrition facts label

New study finds food labels mislead consumers about trans fat. Surprised?

????????????????????????????????????Nope. Not a bit. That’s because current food labels do mislead consumers when it comes to trans fat.

People may be consuming more trans fat than they think, as a result of misleading food labels, according to a study from the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Researchers examined 4,340 top-selling packaged foods and found that 9 percent contained partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fat. But of those foods, 84 percent claimed on their packaging to have “0 grams” of trans fat.

The amount of trans fat in these products varied from small traces to almost 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the researchers said.

Under the rules of the Food and Drug Administration, foods that contain less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving must be labeled with “0 g” of trans fat.
“This labeling is cause for concern because consumers, seeing the 0 g trans fat on the nutrition facts label, are probably unaware that they are consuming trans fat,” the researchers wrote in their study, published in the in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Trans fat is a specific type of fat that is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to turn them into solid fats. The FDA has tentatively determined that partially hydrogenated oils are not “generally recognized as safe” for consumption. If the FDA makes a final determination, trans fat would become an illegal food additive.

People who consume trans fat may be at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, studies have suggested.

The food products examined in the study ranged from cookies to salad dressing and canned soup.

“Our analysis demonstrates that industrial trans fat is still common in U.S. packaged foods, particularly in some food categories,” the researchers said.
For example, half of the foods in the potato chips category, and 35 percent of cookies contained trans fat, according to the report.

FoodFacts.com has been reporting on this phenomenon for years. Long story short — only educated and nutritionally aware consumers understand that 0 trans fat doesn’t always equal 0. As long as the product in question contains less than .5 grams, the manufacturer is permitted to list trans fat content as 0. The concern of course, is that if the consumer eats more than a single serving of that product, the trans fat can quickly add up. Take cookies for example, which were included in this research. An average serving size of cookies as listed on most packaging is three cookies. If you eat six cookies that contain .5 grams of trans fat per serving of three, you’ve consumed one gram of trans fat. Throw some canned soup in the mix for the day and maybe some potato chips and it’s really difficult to know exactly how much trans fat you’ve consumed in that 24 hour period.

This is a great reminder for those who already understand the facts about trans fat — and a great learning opportunity for those who didn’t yet understand — that just because you think it doesn’t contain trans fat, doesn’t mean that’s the case. We’re crossing our fingers that the proposed trans fat ban does become reality. In the meantime, let’s all remember that when it comes to nutrition labels, not every 0 represents the same thing.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/consumers-beware-misleading-labels-hide-trans-fats/

Food Fight! Sugar lobbyists and public health advocates at odds over added sugar transparency on food labels

iStock_000001563163SmallFor many of us of a certain generation, the words “Food Fight” will always invoke the memory of John Belushi’s Bluto screaming the phrase in the middle of the cafeteria featured in the classic movie, Animal House. If only the world could always be that simple and funny. This post, however, details a real-life, real-time food fight that has erupted between powerful Big Sugar lobbyists and public health advocates on the heels of the Food And Drug Administration’s proposed changes to nutrition labels that include listing the amount of added sugar in food products.

Here at FoodFacts.com, we think everyone would like to know how much sugar the food industry is actually adding to the products we purchase. We’re sure that even the most uneducated food consumer would choose transparency when it comes to this serious and well-publicized issue.

Scientific studies increasingly are finding links between sugar consumption and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. With public health at stake, advocates say, consumers need to be informed of what is being introduced into their food.

“Food producers and others that represent sugar interests are robbing us of this information that we should have access to, they’re robbing us of our health,” said Gretchen Goldman, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “People have a right to know how much sugar is in their foods.”
The inclusion of added sugars appears to be a jab from the FDA at food manufacturers, whether the agency intended for it to be or not. Other measurements on nutrition labels—calories, fat, sodium—are passive: They simply state how much is in the food. But the added sugars measurement is active: It implies that the company the consumer is purchasing from has included something that could be dangerous in high doses over the long term.

Food business groups argue that a gram of sugar, natural or added, is a gram of sugar—so why distinguish it?

“There is no chemical difference between naturally occurring sugars or added sugars, and…there is no scientific evidence that added sugars are linked to obesity or other chronic diseases,” said Lee Sanders, a spokeswoman for the American Bakers Association.

But foods containing added sugar are among the most unhealthy, supporters of the FDA proposal say, and more information is a good way for consumers to be more conscious of that.

“The food industry response has said that the body doesn’t distinguish between added and natural sugar, and that’s true…but we do no harm by limiting added sugar, and we know it’s a good way to limit calorie intake. It seems to be a logical step to include added sugars on the label,” said Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont.

The American Heart Association, which supports the label change, came out with a scientific statement in 2009 that recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day for women, and nine teaspoons a day for men, citing the body of evidence that connects high intake of sugar to health problems.

Big Sugar, advocates say, is employing strategies reminiscent of Big Tobacco in its heyday.

“[They’re] different players, but it’s the same game,” Goldman said. “We’re seeing the exact same tactics that Big Tobacco was using. They’re trying to manufacture doubt in the science, they’re trying to pay their own experts to carry their talking points, and they’re doing these things with the intent to undermine public policy.”

Industry also has other objections to the proposed change to nutrition labels: Sanders, from the bakers’ lobbying group, said it would be “difficult, if not impossible, to calculate added sugar.” The FDA acknowledges the costs of the rule change for businesses, estimating that the one-time expenditure would be $2.3 billion for labeling, reformulation of products, and record keeping.

And there are more individualized concerns. The International Dairy Foods Association, for example, is concerned that the definition of added sugar includes natural sugars isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component—fruit juice concentrate, for example. That would affect the added sugar count for dairy products such as whey, nonfat dry milk, or milk protein concentrate.

The proposed FDA change appears to have left the biggest of the industry lobbying groups unenthusiastic about communicating with the media. A Sugar Association spokeswoman, Tonya Allen, declined to speak by phone on the issue, pointing only to a weeks-old statement put out by the organization. The Corn Refiners Association did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Stakeholders and business groups have until August 1 to comment on the proposed change. The FDA then will review the comments and consider them in edits to the proposed label, followed by the enactment of a final label. Industry will then, under the proposed rules, have a two-year transitional period over which to comply with the new requirements.

Over the next two weeks, as the FDA comments period draws to a close, industry groups are expected to turn up the heat on the proposal.

“The food industry knows that when they add it to food, you buy more. They don’t add it for any other reason,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, a University of California-San Francisco professor who has campaigned against sugar consumption. “You [currently] can’t tell how much sugar has been added, and the food industry wants it that way.”

Read that last quote carefully. We can’t tell how much sugar has been added to our food. We’re being told to keep sugar consumption to between 6 and 9 teaspoons per day (depending on our gender). It appears we don’t know how much sugar we’re consuming and lobbyists are trying to keep it that way. And it certainly doesn’t appear that the “sugar is sugar” argument being made by the sugar lobby has much to do with the problem. The problem originates with the question, “how sweet is sweet enough?” The food industry wants to continue to answer that question without transparency or input. We’re hopeful that the FDA will begin making these major changes next month.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/19/guess-who-doesn-t-want-you-to-know-how-much-added-sugar-is-in-your-food.html

A more detailed look at proposed nutrition label changes

nutrition.jpgBack in January, the FDA announced that it would be considering changes to the current nutrition labels that have been making a mandatory appearance on food products here in the U.S. for the last 20 years. We were excited by the idea and have been waiting to see what those changes would entail.

There’s news to report and we think you’ll be happy with the information that’s becoming available regarding the proposed changes.

First, here are some interesting facts on the background of our current nutrition labeling system. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that most food labels listed any nutrition information. At the time, labels with calorie or sodium counts were mainly used on products the FDA considered to have “special dietary uses,” for people with high blood pressure who were watching sodium, for instance. Most people were making meals at home then, so there wasn’t a huge demand for this information. That changed as more people started eating processed foods.

Noticing the trend, the White House pulled together a conference of nutritionists and food manufacturers in 1969. Nutrition labeling was voluntary at first. It wasn’t until 1990 that the FDA required nutrition labels for most prepared and packaged foods. We take it for granted, twenty-plus years later, that whatever packaged food we pick up in the grocery store will carry that familiar, easy-to-identify label that gives us necessary facts about that particular food item.

Plenty has changed in the last 20 years and the FDA is proposing several modifications to those labels to bring them current with today’s nutritional concerns. If approved, the new labels would place a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D and potassium.

The FDA is also proposing changes to serving size requirements in an effort to more accurately reflect what people usually eat or drink. For example, if you buy a 20-ounce soda, you’re probably not going to stop drinking at the 8-ounce mark. The new rules would require that entire soda bottle to be one serving size — making calorie counting simpler.

“You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” first lady Michelle Obama said in a press release. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”

The proposed labels would remove the “calories from fat” line you currently see on labels, focusing instead on total calories found in each serving. Nutritionists have come to understand that the type of fat you’re eating matters more than the calories from fat. As such, the breakdown of total fat vs. saturated and trans fat would remain.

The proposed labels would also note how much added sugar is in a product. Right now, it’s hard to know what is naturally occurring sugar and what has been added by the manufacturer.

“Now when Americans pull a product from the supermarket shelf, they will have a clear idea of how much sugar that product really contains,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said.

The FDA also plans to update the daily values for certain nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. For instance, the daily limit for sodium was 2,400 milligrams. If the new rules take effect, the daily value will be 2,300 milligrams, administration officials said.

Food and beverage companies would also be required to declare the amount of Vitamin D and potassium in a product, as well as calcium and iron. Research shows Americans tend not to consume enough Vitamin D for good bone health. And potassium is essential in keeping your blood pressure in check.

Administration officials said about 17% of current serving size requirements will be changing, and the FDA is adding 25 categories for products that weren’t commonly around 20 years ago (think pot stickers, sesame oil and sun-dried tomatoes).

Most of the required serving sizes will be going up; no one eats just half a cup of ice cream, for instance. Others, like yogurt, will be going down.

“This will help people better understand how many calories they actually consume, especially if they plan to eat all the food in a container or package,” Brown said.

While the American Heart Association and advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest commended the FDA’s changes, they noted that there was more to do.

Both organizations said the FDA’s sodium recommendation was still too high. Brown said the association will continue to recommend sodium intake be limited to 1,500 milligrams a day.

CSPI said it will also request that the FDA include a daily value of 25 grams for added sugars. “Thus, the Nutrition Facts label for a 16.9-ounce bottle of soda would indicate that its 58 grams of added sugars represents 230 percent of the DV,” the group said in an e-mail.

With this announcement, the FDA has opened a 90-day comment period, during which experts and members of the public can provide input on the proposed rules. The FDA will then issue a final rule. Officials said they hope to complete the process this year. Manufacturing companies will then have two years to implement the changes.

FoodFacts.com is very excited by the changes outlined by the FDA for so many reasons. The changes in serving sizes are especially important because the currently, they don’t really reflect how most people consume foods. When people take a can of soup to the office for lunch they’re likely consuming the whole can — not half of it. The label that details two servings isn’t a realistic portrayal of consumption and can easily be misinterpreted. Do most people double the facts on the label to figure out what they’re eating? Do you count 15 potato chips out of a bag or a bowl to make sure that what the nutrition label details is what you’re actually eating? There are multiple examples of this scenario you can find looking at the nutrition labels detailed for products in the FoodFacts.com database. The truth is that right now, it’s far too easy to be fooled into thinking you’re consuming less of the things you’re supposed to be paying attention to than you in fact are.

These improvements to nutrition labels are welcome and long overdue. The fat, sugar and salt content of foods is a big issue for consumers and every change that can help us genuinely determine what we’re really eating is a welcome change for our health.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/27/health/nutrition-labels-changes/index.html

Ben & Jerry’s new Core flavors … the FoodFacts.com “taste” test

iStock_000016067678Small.jpgIt’s been all over the news for the last week or so. Ben & Jerry’s has added four new Core flavors to their ice cream varieties. Each has a core inside the tub, adding a new dimension to the flavor. And those flavors promise to be pretty tasty, with a little something for every ice cream lover’s discerning palette. Reading the reviews and taste tests tells us that, for the most part, each of them has been found pretty appealing for a variety of reasons.

Of course we thought it would be appropriate for FoodFacts.com to put them through our own “taste” test … one of the nutritional variety. So let’s get to work and tell you what you can expect from each of the new Ben & Jerry’s sensations. Serving size for each is a half cup.

Hazed & Confused
This new flavor features hazelnut and and chocolate ice creams with fudge chips surrounding a hazelnut fudge core. Sounds pretty decadent, and it is:

Calories:                                 280
Fat:                                         16 g
Saturated Fat:                          10 g (or 50% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                             55 mg
Sugars:                                   25 g

Of note: There are no controversial ingredients in this flavor. That’s a nice plus.

That’s My Jam
This one is features raspberry and chocolate ice creams with fudge chips hiding a core of raspberry jam. We should mention that some reviews say the jam core provides a “different” consistency to the ice cream that a few people found a little odd. But it certainly accomplishes the goal of adding a new dimension to the flavor. Here are the facts:

Calories:                                 260
Fat:                                       13 g
Saturated fat:                           9 g (or 45% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                           55 mg
Sugar:                                   29 g

This flavor does contain carrageenan and natural flavors.

Peanut Butter Fudge
Showcases chocolate and peanut butter ice creams with mini peanut butter cups and a peanut butter fudge core. This was one of the best-rated of the four in all of the available reviews.

Calories:                                300
Fat:                                       19 g
Saturated fat:                         10 g (or 50% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                           50 mg
Sugar:                                    24 g

No controversial ingredients are included in the Peanut Butter Fudge flavor.

Salted Caramel Core
Another big winner among reviewers, Salted Caramel Core mixes blonde brownies into sweet cream ice cream surrounding a salted caramel center. Definitely sounds like an indulgence.

Calories:                                270
Fat:                                      14 g
Saturated fat:                          8 g (or 40% of your RDI)
Cholesterol:                          75 mg
Sugar:                                  28 g

Salted Caramel Core does contain carrageenan.

While the nutrition facts aren’t by any means spectacular, we should mention that they’re fairly comparable to any other ice cream flavor with “add-ins,” like M&Ms, Peanut Butter Cups, Heath Bars and the like. They aren’t shocking, but that still doesn’t make them great choices. And in fairness to Ben & Jerry’s, even the flavors that do contain some controversial items have better ingredient lists than similar products from other brands. Final words: Ben & Jerry’s new Core products definitely offer a new dimension in ice cream flavors. Whether or not you choose to indulge should probably have something to do with the facts we’ve just detailed. And if you do make the decision to proceed, we’d like to recommend that you definitely DON’T eat the whole pint, no matter how much you love it!

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Additional-Flavors-/Ben-Jerrys-Hazed-Confused-Core-Ice-Cream-1-pint/91770
http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Additional-Flavors-/Ben-Jerrys-Peanut-Butter-Fudge-Core-Ice-Cream-1-pint/91771
http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Additional-Flavors-/Ben-Jerrys-Thats-My-Jam-Core-Ice-Cream-1-pint/91772
http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Additional-Flavors-/Ben-Jerrys-Salted-Caramel-Core-Ice-Cream-1-pint/91774

Milk’s favorite cookie unveils two new flavors

For many people (some of us here at FoodFacts.com included) some of their fondest childhood memories include sitting at the kitchen table with a big glass of milk and three or four Oreo cookies sitting on a plate. Those memories are being created right now for millions of kids. Will they dunk the whole cookie? Will they twist the cookie apart, eat the cream and then dunk the separated cookies? It’s fun … and it tastes pretty good, too. Of course, FoodFacts.com has to intrude on those memories and remind us all that the ingredient list for Oreos does leave something to be desired.

Oreos has introduced new flavors to its line of cookies over the years. We have Mint Oreos, Peanut Butter Oreos, and Lemon Oreos, to name just a few. And yesterday, Oreos released two new, limited-edition flavors to its library. We can now indulge in Cookie Dough Oreos and Marshmallow Crispy Oreos. They’ll be available for six to eight weeks and have been getting a lot of attention around the internet.

While the reviews have been mixed, the majority are positive.

It appears that Marshmallow Crispy Oreos took their inspiration from Rice Krispies Treats. Those taste-testing the new cookies prior to their release were happy with the flavor. Many felt that the filling was too sweet, but it does appear to be authentic to the name. And the crisped rice in the filling was happily received.

Cookie Dough Oreo reviews were definitely of the mixed variety, although most agreed that the filling didn’t live up to its name. Flavor descriptions ranged from maple syrup to caramel to coffee – but not cookie dough.

FoodFacts.com set out to find the ingredient list and nutritional content for the new limited-edition Oreo flavors, but we came up empty handed. While they are pictured on the Oreo.com site, neither Cookie Dough or Marshmallow Crispy Oreos are listed on the corresponding product site as of yet (www.snackworks.com). That’s where we would find the nutrition and ingredient data. Given the absence of the facts, we can only go with what we know about some of the other flavors.

Two Peanut Butter Oreos (the noted serving size) contain 140 calories, 6g of fat, 1g of saturated fat and 11 grams of sugar. The ingredient list details both high fructose corn syrup and the artificial flavor vanillan.

Similarly, two Mint Oreos contain 140 calories with 7g of fat, 2g of saturated fat and 13 grams of sugar. The ingredient list for this flavor contains high fructose corn syrup, vanillin and a few artificial colors.

So since we’ve been left to our own devices with both Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy Oreos, we’re assuming similar nutrition data. There may be more sugar since the reviews included comments about the sweetness of both flavors, but we can’t say for sure. What we can say is that both the Peanut Butter and Mint flavors are rated F according to our health score. Given that rating, we’ll probably pass these up — unless, of course, Oreos chooses to disclose the information at some point during the next six to eight weeks and it appears to be different than some of the other flavors for which we have the data.

http://newsfeed.time.com/2014/01/23/oreo-launches-two-new-flavors-and-theyre-both-delicious/

http://www.businessinsider.com/cookie-dough-oreo-review-2014-1

Taco Bell introduces new Grilled “Stuft” Nacho

While we know that we probably have a different view of food products than average consumers, FoodFacts.com has always held to the unspoken rule that when manufacturers use “creative spelling” within the name of a product, odds are it’s not going to be good. The product in question will most likely have an unpleasant ingredient list with more than a few items we don’t like or it will be unreasonably loaded with fat, sugar or salt. It’s a general observation we’ve been able to make over the last decade or so and it’s pretty much held true across the board. Can you think of any product that spells cheese “Cheez” that you’d actually volunteer to consume? That’s just one example that readily comes to mind.

Now, Taco Bell is promoting their latest product … the Grilled “Stuft” Nacho. And we have to admit that even before attempting to research this new offering, we were tipped off by the “creative spelling” of the word stuffed. While we’re trying to nail down the ingredient information for this one, we haven’t come up with much yet. Except that Taco Bell is claiming five ingredients. Seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, their new zesty nacho sauce, crunchy red strips and cool reduced-fat sour cream.

O.k. before we even get to the idea that we have no idea what’s actually in the two varieties of nacho cheese sauce, we just need to ask … what the heck are crunchy red strips???? What are they supposed to taste like??? Tortillas, red peppers, tomatoes, maybe???? All by itself, this ingredient is rather off-putting, even for fast food.

This product shouldn’t be confused with nachos. In the first place, the serving is one Grilled Stuft Nacho. It’s a triangle-shaped tortilla shell (the shape of a tortilla chip). That shell is grilled and then stuffed with the aforementioned ingredients.

While we couldn’t get any further along with the ingredients, we did get the nutrition facts for an item that’s priced more like a snack than your average fast food lunch. Did we mention it only costs $1.29. Since it’s priced along the lines of a McDonald’s Snack Wrap, we’re going with the idea that the Grilled Stuft Nacho isn’t actually intended to be a lunch item. But frankly, you may as well have a Big Mac or a Whopper instead.

One Grilled Stuft Nacho has a super-sized calorie count of 570 with 32g of fat, 7g of saturated fat and 960mg of sodium. That’s the same kind of nutrition information you’ll find associated with the biggest of burgers at most of the popular fast food chains.

We’re happy to say that our old rule-of-thumb regarding “creative spellings” has held up once again. You can usually consider it code for “what’s in here is so bad for you that we can’t actually call it by its real name.”

http://herald-review.com/blogs/decaturade/eating-badly-taco-bell-s-new-grilled-stuft-nacho/article_ea647faa-fd36-59e5-af6e-23e8c862aa8a.html

Is there actually such a thing as a healthy French fry? Burger King says its new Satisfries fit the bill!

FoodFacts.com may still be on the fence in regard to the new Satisfries Burger King recently introduced to consumers. While Burger King is not touting the healthfulness of this new French fry option (to their credit – it’s still a fry), the nutritional information they are promoting is pretty impressive.

These new crinkle-cut Satisfries boast 40% less fat and 30% less calories than plain old Burger King fries – down almost 77 calories and 5 grams of fat for a small order!

So what could we possibly be on the fence about?

FoodFacts.com hasn’t been able to see the ingredient list as of yet. We’re working on getting it so that we can find a comfortable place to stand on either side of the nutritional fence regarding Satisfries.

From what we’ve read, it appears that all Burger King fries are coated with a batter that helps the fries crisp up in the deep fryer while remaining moist and flavorful. According to the company, the drop in fat and calories in the Satisfry is a result of reformulating that thin coating – nothing more and nothing less. The reformulated coating is less porous than the old one, meaning the fries absorb less oil and are, therefore, lighter in calories and fat than their non-crinkle-cut counterparts.

Essentially this means that the ingredient list we currently have for traditional Burger King Fries will not change for the new Satisfries. As soon as we have that information we’ll get off that fence one way or another. But in the meantime, Satisfries do represent a notable reduction in fat and calories for fast food consumers. Yes – it’s still fast food and yes, there are absolutely better food choices … but Satisfries are a step in the right direction for the fast food industry.

One small note. Satisfries appear to cost between 20 and 30 cents more than regular fries. Maybe the reformulation of that thin coating costs a bit more. We’re not sure, but we did think we should let you know. And honestly, maybe the savings in fat and calories is actually worth the 20 – 30 cents. Consumers will have to make that decision.

In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted on how consumers respond to Satisfries and we’ll let you know when we can share ingredient information for the product with you. What we can say for sure right now though is that in a category of food offerings that seem to proffer less and less nutritional value consistently, it’s nice to see Burger King introduce a product with improved nutritional content.

While FoodFacts.com isn’t a proponent of fast food, we do think it’s important to acknowledge companies who are making real efforts to offer better options. So … nice work Burger King. Oh … and can you send us that ingredient list as soon as you can?

Consumers mistakenly link the color green on food labels with healthier choices

Marketing tactics actually work. FoodFacts.com is always watching and learning how consumers can be led to believe whatever food manufacturers want them to through the simple use of marketing tactics. We’ve discussed this phenomenon often on our blog and our Facebook page. Words like “natural”, “healthy”, “whole grain”, and “multi-grain” often dissuade consumers from reading ingredient lists and fully understanding the products they purchase. Foods marketed to kids often employ the use of a cute, colorful cartoon character that “speaks” directly to them. The list goes on and on.

Today we came across some fascinating research regarding food product marketing. Specifically, the research took a look at the use of a green calorie label appearing on the front of packaging. It appears that this study out of Cornell University has discovered that consumers are more likely to think that a food is healthy if it carries a green calorie label as opposed to a red one … even if the calorie count is exactly the same. It appears that consumers associate the green label with healthfulness – especially among those consumers who place high value on healthy eating.

93 university students were asked to imagine that they were hungry and they see a candy bar while waiting on a grocery checkout line. The students were shown an image of a candy bar with either a red or a green calorie label. They were asked whether the candy bar with the green label contained a greater or lesser number of calories than the candy bar with the red label and how healthy it was in comparison. The students consistently perceived the candy bar with the green label as healthier than the bar with the red label, even though the calorie count was exactly the same.

The experiment was repeated with almost 40 online participants. These consumers were shown images of candy with green or white labels. They were asked how important health was as a factor in their food purchasing decisions. The more importance the participants placed on health as a decision-making factor in food purchases, the more they perceived the green-labeled candy bar as healthier to eat.

Front-of-package labeling has become increasingly popular as a way to attract consumers with a desirable calorie count in the foods they are purchasing. These labels are designed to be conspicuous, especially at point of purchase. And they are especially prevalent on candies and other sugary snacks. The research suggests that the color of the label may have more of an effect on the consumer’s perception than the actual information the label is attempting to convey. This has tremendous implications for food labeling and suggests that the FDA might serve the public well be instituting a uniform front-of-package labeling system.

FoodFacts.com can actually understand how consumers may automatically relate the color green with healthier food choices. These days, everything good is “green”. We have green cleaning products, green fabrics, green paper products, etc. All of these are designed to be better for our environment. And we relate the word “green” with better products because of that. But that association is carrying over to food labeling, when it really shouldn’t be the case. Let’s remember that not all green is clean and good for us – especially when it comes to front-of-package labeling in our food supply. Just because the label is green, doesn’t mean we should really consider the product healthy.
Read more here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130312134452.htm

Don’t count on nutrition labels for your calorie count

We know that those in our FoodFacts.com community are vigilent about nutrition labels and ingredient lists for the foods they purchase. It’s the best way to be as educated as we can regarding what’s really in the products we’re taking home with us from the grocery store. Today, however, we came across some information we want to share with you about possible inaccuracies regarding the calorie counts on nutrition labels. Experts are now telling us the numbers listed might be incorrect.

Some recent studies have shown that it’s not just the ingredients that count for calorie counts. It’s also the amount of processing that is required to prepare the food. So whatever slicing, chopping, mashing might be necessary to get that food into its package can affect the number of calories you’re actually consuming. In fact, even chewing those foods might, in fact, release some calories during the digestion process when it comes to the ingredients that aren’t used by the body. None of these variables are accounted for in the current calorie calculations used on nutrition labels.

Science has understood for quite a while that calorie counts are actually estimates. But now, researchers are focusing on the issue and asking for a revamp of the system used. That way, consumers would have a more accurate depiction of the number of calories they are consuming from the products they purchase.

David Baer, a research physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center headed a study that showed that almonds have 20% fewer calories than previously thought. They are now looking into testing other food products. While the inaccuracies of nutrition label calorie counts are generally small, it is thought that for some foods, the count can differ from the estimate by up to 50%.

A device called a bomb calorimeter is one way that’s used to measure a food’s calorie count. There are many factors the bomb calorimeter cannot take into account. But old methods are still used today, because food manufacturers have simple ways to make their calorie calculations.

There are foods – for instance, those high in fiber – that are not digested as well as others. That would mean that we actually get less calories from them then we’re currently aware of. For other foods, however, we’re actually consuming a higher amount of calories than suggested by the listing on the nutrition label.

Further research coming out of Harvard University’s FAS Center for Systems Biology has shown that processing food changes its calorie count. So for example, pureed carrots would carry a different calorie count than whole carrots. That’s because the processing of the vegetable takes some of the work out of digesting the vegetable. The processed vegetable will contain more calories than the whole vegetable.

While some researchers are saying that the differences in actual calories versus those estimated by current calculation formulas on nutrition labels really wouldn’t affect us that much, others who are advocating for a calculation revision say that it would be best to give consumers the most accurate information possible. This would help people make the most informed choices possible about their food choices.

Changing the current system would not be an easy task. But researchers might be able to improve the biggest gaps in the system … like adjusting for food processing.

FoodFacts.com is pleased to see increased concern regarding the need for consumers to make the most educated and informed food choices possible. While we know changes to the calorie calculation system make take some time to reach us, we think it’s in every consumer’s best interest and will keep an eye out for whatever improvements are being considered.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/02/04/calorie-labels-inaccurate-experts-say/#ixzz2JzKLRbqe

Healthy changes may be coming to a nutrition label near you!

Throughout our site’s history, FoodFacts.com has listed nutrition labels and ingredient lists for thousands of products. With the 20 year anniversary of the federal requirement for nutrition labels to appear on every packaged food product in our grocery stores, we found this interesting news regarding the possibility of a further evolution of this important tool for health-conscious consumers and wanted to share it with you today.

A Food and Drug Administration study recommends changing nutrition labels in order to display total calorie and nutrition content for the entire food package, instead of just one serving.

It appears that a different kind of nutrition label that clearly shows the total number of calories and nutrients in the whole package, instead of just a single part of it can, in fact, help people make healthier food choices.

The FDA conducted a survey involving almost 9500 U.S. adult consumers. The participants were each shown one of the ten different nutrition labels that present calories and nutrient content per serving or per container in a few different manners.

The FDA researchers found that consumers were better able to determine the health value of a variety of different products when the nutrition facts illustrated were for the entire container’s contents – or for both a single serving AND the entire package.

Participants were asked how healthy they thought different products were, including how much fat, for example, was in one serving. They then compared types of chips or frozen meals to determine which was healthier. It appeared to be easier for consumers to determine nutrient content when presented with facts for the whole package. A bag of chips, for example, might contain five servings. Then they need to do the math for the single serving as applied to the whole bag. Given the nutritional information for the whole bag, it was easier for them to determine whether or not it would work with their dietary requirements.

To make products appear healthier, some companies have started increasing the number of servings listed per container, thus lowering the number of calories per serving. And unfortunately, especially in those instances, the consumer is eating a larger quantity than what the manufacturer has specified as a single serving. Manufacturers have a lot of flexibility in how they determine serving size. And this appears to be leading to consumer confusion.

Researchers noted that it isn’t yet known whether or not clearer nutrition facts would affect how consumers reach their food purchasing decisions. It also remains unclear if the FDA will issue changes to labeling requirements because of these findings. What is clear is that introducing a requirement to list nutrition facts for BOTH a single serving as well as the entire package would simplify the information for the purchaser. It’s worth pointing out that there are some products already doing this.

On the FoodFacts.com website, you’ll already find this information for every product in our database. We’re one step ahead on the issue, as we’ve also considered the possibility that “doing the math” is made much simpler for consumers when they know the content for the whole package. We think this is a great way for people to understand more about what they’re eating and we’re all for the FDA making a change that can help everyone make healthier choices in the grocery store.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/food-labels-confuse-people-fda-study-article-1.1246816#ixzz2IwsJbNhM