Food and Drug Administration revamps nutrition labels

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will revamp nutrition labels for the first time in 20 years to accommodate the needs of health experts and consumers.

According to the Associated Press, the aim of the new labels is to reflect society’s evolved knowledge of nutrition. Julius Castro, a Chicago resident and personal trainer, is one of many who focus on the nutritional value of their food.

“When I’m shopping at a grocery store, the nutritional facts are the first thing I look at,” Castro said.

Castro goes to the grocery store once a week and is very particular about what he buys. He is very conscientious about putting the right amount of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in his diet and preaches his lifestyle to all who want to live healthier.

“You only get one body. No one wants to put bad parts in a car because they know it won’t work right. The same idea should be applied to your body, if you want to live a healthier lifestyle,” Castro said.

The FDA also hopes to answer the needs of health experts, according to the AP. Many of them have expressed concern about the amount of added sugar and percentage of whole wheat in food items, among other things.

There is also a growing misconception about serving size, and health experts hope the FDA will correct this issue, AP reported. On most food products, many people overlook the servings per container. Typically, most items contain multiple servings, which can be deceptive if the nutritional facts displayed are describing only one serving.

“Food labels are really complicated…the idea should be to make it easy because people might make a non-nutritional choice,” Craig Klugman, professor and chair of the Department of Health Sciences at DePaul, said.

Klugman believes the biggest issue plaguing nutritional facts is the serving size.

“The FDA needs to move towards a realistic serving size…the government is pretty much saying it’s ok to eat more,” Klugman said.

Serving sizes change over time, and it’s getting more and more difficult to make healthy choices. It’s particularly challenging to make these choices when different food manufacturers sell products in different measurements. How can one make a healthy choice if water is sold in gallons, but soda is sold in liters? Klugman and Castro agree that a universal measurement of food needs to be put in place to clear up any misconceptions.

Another suggestion made to the FDA is package-front labeling. Some experts believe that if the nutritional facts are in front, consumers will find them more easily and be more aware of what the product contains. Several years ago the FDA issued guidelines for front of package labeling, but held off to see if the industry created its own labels.

Klugman doesn’t believe in package-front labeling and doesn’t think it would be any more beneficial than putting nutritional facts on the back.

“If people want to look for the label they’ll find it…if they put it on the front, there is also less room for advertisement,” Klugman said.

Klugman is concerned that people might not change their food habits even if food labels are clarified. It’s tough to make healthy choices when it’s a more expensive to get a salad than to buy a hamburger.

“People want to get the biggest bang for their buck and they like that,” Klugman said.

The FDA has submitted new label guidelines to the White House, AP reported, but it is not yet clear when the changes will go into effect.