What Consumers Should Know About Changes to Food Labeling

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RaisinOver the past couple of weeks, the Food and Drug Administration announced major changes to food labeling that could have a significant impact on what people eat and drink — or at least how often certain products are consumed.

For example, you might still enjoy that ice cold Coca-Cola, but you could decide it’s more for special occasions when you see that a 20-ounce bottle contains 65 grams of added sugar that represent 130 percent of daily value. Daily value is how much a given nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet.

The changes thus far have been heralded by consumer health advocates, who have fought for years for more information and transparency in labeling. Most food manufacturers have until July 26, 2018, to roll out the new labels.

Here are some things every consumer should know about the recent changes:

—Added sugars will be on labels for the first time.

That means consumers will know how much sugar is added into a food product, as opposed to sugar that’s naturally occurring in food like milk or fruit. Labels will have grams of added sugar and percent of daily value.

Michael Jacobson, executive director for Center for Science in the Public Interest, said this change likely will have “a very important long-term impact.”

Over the past 15 years, an “explosion of research” has “painted a picture of the harmfulness of refined sugars,” connecting sugar consumption to tooth decay, weight gain and heart disease, Jacobson said.

Suffice to say, The Sugar Association does not agree. “We are concerned that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent that is not grounded in science, and could actually deter us from our shared goal of a healthier America,” the trade group said in a statement last week.

—Evaporated cane juice, you’re not fooling anyone.

The FDA issued guidance this week declaring evaporated cane juice to be misleading to consumers and encouraging food companies to simply call the ingredient what it is — sugar.

Just one of many names for sugar, evaporated cane juice has been found on labels of products marketed as healthy, though some makers of those products have already phased them out.

Jacobson likened evaporated cane sugar, and other pseudonyms for sugar, to “painting lipstick on a pig.”

Agave nectar, your days are numbered.

—Calories and serving size will be more prominent on labels.

Soon, nearly everyone will be able to read how many calories are in a bag of potato chips without whipping out a pair of spectacles. The type size for calories will be the largest on the nutritional facts label.

Serving sizes will also be larger and bolder on the label, but perhaps more importantly, serving sizes will be required to more accurately reflect how much people actually eat.

“Increasing the type size for the calories heading and numerical value will support individuals with and at risk for diabetes in selecting, preparing, and consuming food and beverages with the appropriate number of calories to meet their needs for weight management,” according to a statement from the American Diabetes Association.

—Labels likely will continue to evolve.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is calling for simpler, front-of-package labeling that would alert customers to products that are high in calories, fat or sugar, Jacobson said. The watchdog nonprofit also sued the FDA for not responding to a past petition to set limits on sodium content in food. The FDA’s expected to respond next month, though it’s unclear what, if anything, the agency will do.

(Source: TCA)