Why The Proposed Nutrition Facts Label Won’t Do Anything

If you haven’t heard yet, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed our nutrition labels to be changed. This is the first change since 1993, aside from the 2006 requirement to declare trans fats on the labels.

What are proposed changes?

            The FDA is proposing two things- “Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels” and “Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One-Eating Occasion”. In layman’s terms, that means this: they will emphasize the number of calories and servings per container, update % Daily Values for nutrients such as fiber and calcium; update serving sizes; list the amount of added sugars; require listing of potassium and vitamin D if present, and no longer require the labeling of Vitamins A and C.

Why does the FDA feel a need to change them?

The serving sizes companies can work around to make their products look healthier was getting ridiculous. When was the last time you saw someone drink only 8 ounces of a 20 ounce Coke bottle and put it back? With the proposed changes, serving size of the whole container will be larger.

“Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems,” says Michael Landa, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems. Further, we are now proposing to require the listing of added sugars. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing calories from added sugars and solid fats.” “It’s all about providing information that people can use to make their own choices” says Dr. Claudine Kavanaugh, a health scientist at the FDA.

Why I don’t think this will do anything:

Let me preface by saying I think in the fields of wellness and public health, I think that good intentions are usually there. That’s where my optimism stops. These proposed changes feel like a political move to me. Access to information is important, but it may not change consumer habits. Warning labels exist on cigarettes, some fast food chains, alcohol and more. Have your habits changed from increased information?

According to the Association for Consumer Research, results are largely inconclusive as to whether consumer warnings really work or not, and a nutrition label is more or less a type of warning.

These proposed rules are coming from the same organization that approves of so many chemicals in our food and body, including arsenic in our poultry, hormones in our dairy products, and the same chemical in shoe soles and yoga mats in our breads. If they were truly concerned about our health, one would think they would start there. These are chemicals that are banned throughout much of the world, because the research is there to back it up.

Full information on these changes can be found here. Care to comment on the proposed changes? The FDA is asking for feedback from the public before June 2, 2014 11:59pm.

Sam Lopez
Health Educator