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New Food Labels – what is the FDA thinking?


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Hello- I hope this is the right place for this discussion. The FDA is revising the nutritional labels on foods. See here

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/serving-size-on-food-labels/bgp-20094132              What do you think about this?                          

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I think nutrition labels should show the calorie content of a real portion.

 

But the article makes it sound (like so much "information" about nutrition) that Americans just eat a huge amount of food, rather than what I think is the truth:  that food manufacturers purposefully skew the numbers on the label so that you think the calorie, fat and sugar content is lower than it is.  Many of us know how to really read a nutrition label, but some of us don't.

 

I'm also tired of reading that the so-called obesity epidemic is because we eat so much instead of because we're chained to our desks at our jobs for increasingly longer hours with little to eat but refined white flour and sugar, unless we make our own food (which is also time-consuming and adds to the length of a working day).

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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I'm also tired of reading that the so-called obesity epidemic is because we eat so much instead of because we're chained to our desks at our jobs for increasingly longer hours with little to eat but refined white flour and sugar, unless we make our own food (which is also time-consuming and adds to the length of a working day).

 

Other countries (Europe, Japan) have similar (or even longer working hours) in still less people are overall are obese in those countries than in the US (that doesn't mean there is no obese issue in those countries). So say that being chained to the desk is the main issue isn't really a good explanation - i think it is more an issue of overly large portions in restaurants and processed food and better food eduaction in other countries early on from child age which leads to higher levels of people cooking at home even though they have long working hours which is missing in the US.

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The serving size change should be good, IMO some manufacturers have given arbitrary serving sizes in the past so that their product appears to be more healthy. I have seen servings listed as 2½ per can of sports drink, or (everyone's favorite) the 14 liquid oz package of ice cream labelled as 4 servings.

 

The other trick that I am sick of is the small portion size to disguise the amount of man-made trans fat in a food, like the deceptive way that girl scout cookies are labelled. (I gave up trans fat in 1991) Many of the cookies have serving sizes stated as 2 cookies and the grid portion of the label says 0% trans fat. But, hydrogenated oil is one of the ingredients. They are allowed to say 0% because each serving contains (barely) less that 1 gram of it. So, if you eat, say, 4 cookies, you get something like 3.6 grams of trans fat. If you eat the whole bag, you get 18 grams, or more.

 

BTW, there's increasing evidence that antibiotics affect our internal microbiome and cause us to become fat without any increase in calorie intake. Farmers have known this for over 50 years and it's why they feed livestock low level of antibiotics -they speed up growth and fattening without any extra feed costs.

http://www.wired.com/2012/08/antibiotics-obesity/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/opinion/sunday/the-fat-drug.html

 

edited to correct math

Edited by Lisa Shock (log)
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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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I'm not sure I agree with re-sizing portions to reflect what people actually eat. Seems like it makes it even harder for people to know what a reasonable portion should be. I suppose they are trying to make it so people don't have to do the math to know they ate 800 calories after finishing off the four servings of ice cream in a pint, but it also puts the stamp of approval on eating the whole pint. If a pint becomes a single serving, can I have two if I was good that day?

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I'm not sure I agree with re-sizing portions to reflect what people actually eat. Seems like it makes it even harder for people to know what a reasonable portion should be. I suppose they are trying to make it so people don't have to do the math to know they ate 800 calories after finishing off the four servings of ice cream in a pint, but it also puts the stamp of approval on eating the whole pint. If a pint becomes a single serving, can I have two if I was good that day?

Hello- This, I believe, is the point! Technically,  according to the carton, one egg is a serving. If most people eat 2 or 3 eggs at a time, will 2 eggs become a serving?  This article seems to say we are heading in that direction.

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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On the other hand there have been people who are dishonest about how many servings their products contain and have deliberately mislead calories per serving.  I once bought a package that said it was for two on the front but on the back in the labeling box it said 12 servings.  It was actually about one serving for the whole package and the calories and all the other information looked good on the front of the package.  It was called Texas (something) Dinner. It was shrimp, sausage, corn and some other stuff.  The corn was about half a cop (for two people? No Texans I know would split half a cob, let alone 12 ways.  

 

PS at the time I was on doctors orders to keep my calorie intake at a certain level per meal. It was not because of weight but because of another health problem.  The information on the front of this package said it was within my limits.  After i ate it I thought it could not have been correct so I looked on the back and found out that it was really at least eight times over my limit.  I think it's these kinds of abuse that they are trying to address to make sure that products have reasonable serving size infromation.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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Letting the company decide what is a serving size has been the problem.

 

Off the top of my head here are some other examples.  I don't remember exact numbers in most cases.  There are times when a product can take an average and round down.  When Diet Pepsi first came out, the formulation had one calorie per can.  The advertised it "Diet Pepsi, one small calorie. Now you see it, now you don't." but then they realized that if they said there were two servings per can, they could get away with saying it had no calories.

 

Pam. I don't use it but I remember they advertised that it had no calories or (very low fat?)  The labeling said one serving was a spray that lasted less than half a second.  With such a small amount of product, you could get away with saying there was no calories in bacon fat.

 

High yield gluten flour is allowed to round down protein content so the labeling says it has the same amount of protein as low yield gluten flour.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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The old serving sizes weren't determined by doctors or nutritionists, they were at the whim of the manufacturer. Often times they were ridiculous when they were originally created. Comedians made fun of the 4 servings per pint of ice cream from the very beginning of the program. Nobody buys a pint of ice cream to feed a family of 4 dessert.

 

The elephant in the room has always been that many of these processed foods never really had a 'place' in a well-balanced diet, especially on a daily basis. But, manufacturers wanted the public to think they could easily incorporate them into their everyday routine. There has been a lot of psychological research done by the big food producers to craft these labels so that the food remains as appealing as possible.

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If you ask a scientist "what is a trans fat?" They will say it is a fat that has been trans-formed from a liquid to a solid by hydrogenation.  Hydrogenated fat is the same thing as a trans fat.  Margarine is a trans fat. Crisco is a trans fat.  Both have been reformulated and say they now claim that they are trans fat free but the nutrition labels reveal they still have hydrogenated fat. This is a point Lisa Shock made in an earlier post. I hope the new labeling  will address this too.

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The old serving sizes weren't determined by doctors or nutritionists, they were at the whim of the manufacturer. Often times they were ridiculous when they were originally created. Comedians made fun of the 4 servings per pint of ice cream from the very beginning of the program. Nobody buys a pint of ice cream to feed a family of 4 dessert.

 

The elephant in the room has always been that many of these processed foods never really had a 'place' in a well-balanced diet, especially on a daily basis. But, manufacturers wanted the public to think they could easily incorporate them into their everyday routine. There has been a lot of psychological research done by the big food producers to craft these labels so that the food remains as appealing as possible.

Hello- Lisa Shock, your "elephant in the room" is very interesting. I agree that this is a major part of the problem. Do you see a solution?

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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The real serving size is at the whim of the eater.

It isn't rocket surgery....almost anyone should be able to determine their own serving size and calculate the nutritional details....if they're not capable of doing that then it's probably not possible to create a label that will help them.

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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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If you ask a scientist "what is a trans fat?" They will say it is a fat that has been trans-formed from a liquid to a solid by hydrogenation.  Hydrogenated fat is the same thing as a trans fat.  Margarine is a trans fat. Crisco is a trans fat.  Both have been reformulated and say they now claim that they are trans fat free but the nutrition labels reveal they still have hydrogenated fat. This is a point Lisa Shock made in an earlier post. I hope the new labeling  will address this too.

 

 

As I understand it, partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats but fully hydrogenated oils do not.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Adjusting the serving size isn't going to do any good unless the accuracy of the the nutritional information is first addressed.

 

Here are a couple links that highlight some of the problems....

 

http://blog.fooducate.com/2009/12/02/nutrition-data-gone-wild/

 

http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food_labeling_chaos_report.pdf

 

The biggest issue I have with food labels is with the listing of carbohydrates, often the serving size from which the carbohydrate level is determined is very small and the carbohydrate amount is rounded done to zero, when, in reality, it's not actually zero, so when a larger serving is consumed, the real level of carbohydrate can be a very serious issue for some. When combining several ingredients with the same labeling problem, it has the potential of being a very dangerous disaster for those of us who are carbohydrate-sensitive.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Hello-This is all very interesting. I think there is a Percent Daily Value issue too. An egg , according to the info an the carton, contains 70% of your daily Cholesterol requirement. Yet, in my opinion, many omelets   contain more than one egg per serving. Comments?

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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If you ask a scientist "what is a trans fat?" They will say it is a fat that has been trans-formed from a liquid to a solid by hydrogenation.  Hydrogenated fat is the same thing as a trans fat.  Margarine is a trans fat. Crisco is a trans fat.  Both have been reformulated and say they now claim that they are trans fat free but the nutrition labels reveal they still have hydrogenated fat. This is a point Lisa Shock made in an earlier post. I hope the new labeling  will address this too.

That is scientifically wrong on so many points by not differentiating between different types of unsaturated fats. Also hydrogenated fats are not the same thing as trans fat, margerine is not trans fat. I would highly recommend to read a very basic chemistry book - one problem in these type of food/nutrition discussions is that it requires some scientific knowledge to discuss otherwise it will be hard to argue about any of these issues

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In Australia the labelling contains two columns, one for a serving size and the other for a standard unit of measurement, in our case 100g.

 

The result of this is that the educated consumer can compare two products directly on the same standard measure to see which is a healthier alternative in terms of sugar, salt, carbohydrates, fat, etc.

 

Our prices are similarly now displayed by standard unit (price per 100g, per kg, etc.) so the smaller, apparently cheaper package, can be directly compared with a larger package containing more of the product. 

 

Serving size measurements and measurements for total content per package only go part of the way.

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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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All of the major weight loss sites or nutrition sites have been pointing out the really over the top stupid or misleading labeling for years. We have to be informed and vigilant consumers. I imagine the marketing budget of most packaged foods is so high that it is most of the cost. I picked up the March/April 2014 Cook's Illustrated to browse from someone's coffee table the other day. The article on orange juice was gag inducing. I never buy it but the loose definition of fresh is appalling and the science to coax consumers into purchasing is scary. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/taste_tests/1496-orange-juice

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Hello- Lisa Shock, your "elephant in the room" is very interesting. I agree that this is a major part of the problem. Do you see a solution?

 

It's not really my place to make generalized statements about what other people should eat or not. I did genetic screening, and I know that for myself, it's better to not eat some things (coffee) and better to eat others.

 

That said, my rule of thumb is to try not eat anything that's advertized. (tv, online, in magazines, etc.) I figure that anything that needs a marketing budget isn't heading in the right direction. Yes, I occasionally eat chips, candy, crackers, etc. (you can see my post reviewing test flavors of Doritos on this site) but I try to limit it to maybe once a week. And, I generally prefer to make snacks from scratch because I can make them taste better. (they might be marginally healthier, but, I don't fool myself into thinking my homemade potato chips are health food) In general, I think we are being inundated with more and more advertizing (for all sorts of things) and don't really stop and question the whole situation much. Most processed foods are the cheapest possible ingredients in the smallest possible amount for the largest amount of money the market will bear. The manufacturer isn't looking out for you, they are looking out for their bottom line.

 

I made a meal recently for friends and as part of that meal I made a simple red onion rice pilaf from scratch and blew everyone away because all they'd ever had was pilaf from a box. I pointed out that my recipe involved an extra two minutes of work (dicing an onion and sauteing items in order before adding stock) than the box, produced more than twice as much food, and cost less to make. I wish I could give that demonstration to more people, especially kids, and show them how to cook and eat better -while saving money.

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Maybe instead of changing the serving size, they should keep the info for what one serving should be, and put next to it the info for the whole package.

 

I agree with the latter point.  Notably, according to the blog post linked in the OP and the FDA page linked by DDF in Post #6, whole package info is one of the FDA's proposals.   As a consumer who actually uses nutrition labels, this would be a great step forward.  I routinely gross up the per serving counts to get totals,, which I then divide depending on how I'm actually using the product, but this doesn't easily catch the per serving rounding games mentioned by others above.

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The real serving size is at the whim of the eater.

It isn't rocket surgery....almost anyone should be able to determine their own serving size and calculate the nutritional details....if they're not capable of doing that then it's probably not possible to create a label that will help them.

 

There I fully agree. It seems consumers are simply looking for scapegoats when their balance shows disfavorable numbers while their insulin levels become non-responsive. Food manufacturers and the FDA are easy to blame when someone doesn't want to take responsibility for their actions. Also, people seem to have really lost sense of quantities for a reasonable portion:

 

The old serving sizes weren't determined by doctors or nutritionists, they were at the whim of the manufacturer. Often times they were ridiculous when they were originally created. Comedians made fun of the 4 servings per pint of ice cream from the very beginning of the program. Nobody buys a pint of ice cream to feed a family of 4 dessert.

We used to do that, for our family of four (now I tend to make our own ice cream). Whereas a pint split four ways is not an enormous amount of ice cream per person, it is certainly sufficient to appreciate the creaminess and good taste. It can't some as a surprize to anyone that eating a pint of ice cream in a go is unreasonable in amount of calories, sugars and fats for a single person.

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That is scientifically wrong on so many points by not differentiating between different types of unsaturated fats. Also hydrogenated fats are not the same thing as trans fat, margerine is not trans fat. I would highly recommend to read a very basic chemistry book - one problem in these type of food/nutrition discussions is that it requires some scientific knowledge to discuss otherwise it will be hard to argue about any of these issues

Hello- I thought these sites might add some scientific weight to our discussion of trans-fats:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114 and this one

 

    http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp     

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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