Tag Archives: nutrition labels

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.


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

Seeds: good things come in small packages

FoodFacts knows that seeds, which are often sowed, watered and waited for to reproduce some kind of food, pack a punch of nutrition relative to their size. However, you don’t need to wait for a seed to sprout to get all its nutrition. In just one ounce , seeds provide a good source of unsaturated fats, manganese, phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals. They are also low sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats. Most seeds are incomplete proteins, so mix them with grains, legumes and/or nuts to make complete proteins. Some seeds are also a great source of dietary fiber. Below, we have evaluated 5 seeds that are packed with nutrients, in no particular order.

1. Flaxseeds: We’ve all heard of these little guys. They are an excellent way to get your omega-3′s, widely available, come in seed and oil form. They are a great source of magnesium, (27% DV), Copper (17% DV), and Thiamin (31%). Flaxseed has all 9 essential amino acids in the amounts needed to make a complete protein, which is great for vegans and vegetarians. Crush seeds to get their full nutrient bioavailability.

Nutrition info: 1 oz contains 150 kcals, 12 g fat (6 grams omega-3), 8 grams fiber.

2. Sesame seeds: These seeds are also a great source of vitamins and minerals. They offer 24% of your magnesium, 19% phosphorus, 20% copper, 20% manganese and a whopping 39% selenium! Phytonutrients in these seeds can help aid in blocking cholesterol absorption. Tahini, made mostly from ground sesame seeds is often found in hummus. It is a complimentary protein to chickpeas, making hummus a complete protein. Yum!

Nutrition info: 1 oz of sesame seeds provides 177 kcals, 3 grams fat, 3 grams fiber

3. Sunflower seeds: A great source of Vitamin E, a 1 oz serving of sunflower seeds provides you with 37% of your daily vitamin E requirements! They are also a great source of selenium (32% of your DV), and copper (26%). A handful of sunflower seeds makes a fast and filling snack. Sunflower seed butter on whole wheat toast makes a complete protein; a simple and great snack any time.

Nutrition info: 1 oz has 163 kcals, 14g fat, 3 grams fiber.

4. Lotus Seeds: Lotus seeds are common in Asian cuisines. They can be eaten raw as a snack (with their bitter parts removed and used for medicinal purposes), added to soups or ground up and turned into paste for pastries. A serving size is low in calories and low in fat compared to other seeds, and a good source of nutrients such as Thiamin (12%), and potassium (11%). Add lotus seeds to a soup with legumes for a complete protein.

Nutrition info: 1 oz has 93 calories, 1 g fat.

5. Chia seeds: The very same that are used for Chia Pets are not only great for decorating terracotta figurines, but a great source of nutrition. Chia seeds are another great source of complete protein for vegans and vegetarians. They are also very versatile in cooking, since the seeds don’t impart flavor and absorb liquids to form a gel like consistency. Mix seeds with a milk of your choice to make chia pudding.

Nutrition info: 1 oz serving has 137 kcals, 9 g total fat, 11 grams fiber. It is also a good source of calcium, providing 18% of your daily needs per serving!

When it comes to our food, do we worry about the wrong things?

Everyday, FoodFacts.com adds a plethora of different foods to our database. We post about various food products and ingredients on our Facebook page. We deliver information that encourages people to get to know what they’re actually eating that they can’t see. And, of course, we read labels ourselves. And it makes us wonder …

The first thing anyone looks at on food packaging is the nutrition label. We all know what they look like:

And we are all familiar with what they list out: Calories, Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Total Carbohydrates, Dietary Fiber, Sugars, Protein, Vitamins and minerals. And for the most part, as a society, these are the things we worry about.

Maybe we don’t worry enough about the product’s ingredient list. Maybe we should consider that if a product’s ingredient list is so long that it takes up a good portion of the package, that it might outweigh the fact that the product is low in calories, fats and sugars and high in fiber and protein. Do we determine what’s healthy by the Nutrition Facts label or do we determine what’s healthy by the ingredient list carried on the product? And finally, how do we determine what makes more sense — eating foods with ingredient lists that we can pronounce and understand or eating foods whose calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs and proteins fall within the prescribed requirements?

FoodFacts.com understands that the nutrition label is, of course, extremely important. But we don’t think that all consumers understand that it’s not the only important thing to consider when making a food purchase. Too many of us rely on convenience products that we believe are healthy for us, without ever considering that ingredient list. Sure, that diet frozen dinner is low in calories and fat, with an acceptable amount of sodium and it’s only going to take 10 minutes to heat up in the microwave. But, go ahead and try to decipher what some of the ingredients are that are listed on the box. And that bowl of microwave popcorn that took just minutes to prepare without any oil or having to wash out any pans involved in preparing it? There’s a good possibility you can’t pronounce more than a few of the ingredients on the package it came from.

While we’re all rightfully concerned about the nutrition labels, we need to commit ourselves to being equally concerned about ingredient lists. We need to be alert to ingredients in food like BHT, BHA, MSG, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Bisulfite, Ethoxyquin, Benzoyl Peroxide, Potassium Bromate and hundreds of others that are not only potentially harmful in our food supply, but have actually been banned for use in other countries.

FoodFacts.com wants everyone in our community to be the most informed food consumers possible. And we want you to make the choices that are right for you and your family. So we’d like to make sure that the next time you’re in a grocery store with a product in your hand looking for the nutrition label that you pay close attention to the ingredient list and appreciate the information it’s giving you. You might be surprised as to how quickly you put the box down and go find the real, natural ingredients out of which you can create a comparable dish that contains products you can understand, pronounce and have no chance of being banned anywhere.

Packaging words to learn and lookout for!

Foodfacts.com understands that many consumers may often be fooled by certain terms, symbols, or words present on food packaging. This article should help to clarify any confusion regarding your foods and how the impact your health!

1. Flavored
Both natural and artificial flavors are actually made in laboratories. But natural flavorings are isolated from a natural source, whereas artificial flavorings are not. However, natural flavors are not necessarily healthier than artificial. According to Scientific American, the natural flavor of coconut is not from an actual coconut, as one might expect, but from the bark of a tree in Malaysia. The process of extracting the bark kills the tree and drives up the price of the product when an artificial flavoring could be made more cheaply and more safely in a laboratory. That natural strawberry flavor you love? It could be made from a “natural” bacterial protein. Mmmm!

2. Drink and cocktail
The FDA requires that the amount of juice be labeled on a package when it claims to contain juice. The words drink and cocktail should have you checking the label for percentages and hidden sugars. But beware: even a product labeled 100 percent juice could be a mixture of cheaper juices, like apple juice and white grape juice.

3. Pure
100 percent pure products such as orange juice can be doctored with flavor packs for aroma and taste similar to those used by perfume companies. By now we all know about the use of flavor packs added back to fresh-squeezed orange juice like Tropicana and Minute Maid.

4. Nectar
The word nectar sounds Garden of Eden pure, but according to the FDA it’s just a fancy name for “not completely juice.” The FDA writes: “The term ‘nectar’ is generally accepted as the common or usual name in the U.S. and in international trade for a diluted juice beverage that contains fruit juice or puree, water, and may contain sweeteners.” The ingredient list of Kern’s, a popular brand of peach nectar, contains high fructose corn syrup before peach puree.

5. Spread

Anything that uses the word spread, is not 100 percent derived from its main ingredient. Skippy Reduced Fat peanut butter is a spread because it contains ingredients that make it different than traditional peanut butter. When something is called a spread, look at the ingredients to see if there is anything in there you don’t want.

6. Good source of fiber

If it doesn’t look like fiber, it may not function like fiber. Products that are pumped full of polydextrose and inulin are not proven to have the same benefits of fruits, vegetables, and beans, foods naturally high in fiber. For true fiber-based benefit add some fruit to your yogurt.

7. Cholesterol free
Any product that is not derived from an animal source is cholesterol free. Companies add this to packaging to create the illusion of health. The product is not necessarily unhealthy, but you should see if there is something they are trying to distract you from–e.g., corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils.

8. Fat free
PAM cooking spray and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray are fat free if used in the super miniscule and near impossible serving sizes recommended. PAM must be sprayed for ¼ of a second and the small I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray bottle contains over 1,000 servings! Even then it’s not fat free it’s just below the amount that the FDA requires to be identified on labels.

9. Sugar free
This designation means free of sucrose not other sugar alcohols that carry calories from carbohydrates but are not technically sugar. Sugar alcohols are not calorie free. They contain 1.5-3 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for sugar. Also, certain sugar alcohols can cause digestion issues.

10. Trademarks

Dannon yogurt is the only company allowed to use the bacteria in yogurt called bifidus regularis because the company created its own strain of a common yogurt bacterial strain and trademarked the name. Lactobacillus acidophilus thrives in all yogurts with active cultures. Although Activa is promoted as assisting in digestion and elimination, all yogurts, and some cheeses, with this bacteria will do the same thing.

11. Health claims
Could a probiotic straw give immunity protection to a child? Are Cheerios a substitute for cholesterol-lowering drugs? The FDA doesn’t think so. Foods are not authorized to treat diseases. Be suspicious of any food label that claims to be the next wonder drug.

Brominated Vegetable Oil in Soda!

sunkist-soda-can-flavorBrought to you by Foodfacts.com:

Soda sales around the world have sky-rocketed in the last 6 decades. Brands such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Cadbury Schweppes have made billions of dollars in revenue selling their flavorful and bubbly beverages worldwide. Another trend running parallel to this one; lack of reading nutrition labels. Major food companies recognize that many consumers neglect to read the nutrition fact labels. Therefore, they have more room to sneak in potentially harmful ingredients without raising any eyebrows. One ingredient in particular is brominated vegetable oil.
As mentioned in last week’s blog pertaining to potassium bromate; Bromine is a harmful halogen element which is highly reactive and potentially lethal to biological organisms. In soda applications, bromine is bonded to atoms of vegetable oil to be used as an emulsifier. This emulsifier helps citrus flavors stay suspended in the beverage and also provide a cloudy appearance. Brominated vegetable oil has been used in soda industries since the early 1930′s.

In many countries, BVO has already been banned as a food additive. However, the US has yet to make take this step. So how does the FDA regulate this ingredient? BVO is on the short list of interim food additives. This is basically a list of “questionable” food additives that are still in production as research continues to explore the safety and potential health effects. Why this list was created?


“The Commissioner recognizes that, with the vast increase in the quantity of scientific testing and in the sophistication of test methodology, there is virtually no[ ] natural or synthetic food substance that cannot be questioned on some technical ground. It would be impossible to require elimination from the food supply of every food substance for which such scientific questions have been or will be raised.”

Currently, BVO is added in certain quantities to flavorings for citrus sodas. Make sure to closely examine food labels and be on the lookout for this ingredients!

Restaurants Misrepresent Calories on Menus – DietsInReview.com

Foodfacts.com has partnered with DietsInReview.com to expose food and nutrition-related news and research. Check out this article below on restaurants misrepresenting calories on menus!


Restaurants Misrepresent Calories on Menus
By Theresa Delay at DietsInReview.com

Many restaurants and fast food restaurants have begun listing calorie counts on their menus, to comply with some state regulations and to help consumers get an accurate idea of what they’re eating. This information should be used by consumers to make educated and well thought-out decisions about their meals. It’s supposed to help curb the obesity trend by allowing the Americans to enjoy eating out without entirely giving up on their nutrition goals.

A new study was published in the Journal of American Medical Association that sheds light on the accuracy of this addition to menus across the country. According to CBS News, nearly 20 percent of restaurant menus contain inaccurate calorie counts. In most instances, the laboratory results revealed as little as 10 calorie difference. However, some menu items (also close to 20 percent) contained more than 100 calories over what the menu claimed. The dish with the highest discrepancy was found to have over 1,000 calories than the amount stated on the menu.
Overall, the fast food chains had more accurate calorie estimations than sit-down restaurants, perhaps because items that are packaged off-site are more uniformly prepared. Although highly processed and mass produced food typically less nutritious than fresh food, it does ensure an accurate reporting of calories. When food is freshly prepared in the kitchen, a there’s a larger margin or error because of inconsistency between chefs at different locations.

There are many reasons not to eat at fast food chains, calorie inaccuracies aside. It would be better to eat a healthy, reasonable diet (even with indulgences) rather than counting the calories in junk food. A McDonald’s burger or a Wendy’s frosty aren’t healthy either way. More importantly, this study reminds of the importance of knowing about the food you put in to your body. Knowing basic nutritional information, where the food comes from and how the dish is prepared, will help you make wise decisions in any situation.

When you chose to eat a meal out, whether it be drive-thru or sit-down, it’s probably better to overestimate the number of calories you’re consuming. Eat just a little bit less and focus more on quality over quantity because you can’t always count on the calorie estimation of a dish.

CBS source link: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20081070-10391704.html?tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea

Nutrition survey suggests labels confuse Canadian consumers

Confusing Nutrition Labels | Foodfacts.com

Confusing Nutrition Labels | Foodfacts.com

For how big, or old, a person was the daily requirement calculated?

Foodfacts.com has learned that consumers to our North are increasingly confused by the nutrition facts table on the back of prepackaged foods. The labels are meant to help shoppers make healthier food choices. Continue reading