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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Label Warfare

When I started this blog over two years ago, I wanted to write an article discussing (well... scrutinising) the American food label compared with the Australian one. With all the coverage the new proposed FDA label regulations are getting, I'd say it's the perfect opportunity!

Let's not beat around the bush. The take home message:
  1. The US needs a standardized column (eg: per 100g) in addition to the "per serve" column
    • See label comparison below
The end. That's it. We're done. Go home.
Ok, we can talk about the proposed changes too. They include:
  1. Make the number of calories per serve larger and bold
  2. Make a serve more realistic
  3. Put the %DV (daily value) on the left, rather than the bottom. Eg: so the %DV for fat is next to the grams of fat
  4. Add an "added sugars" section under sugars
  5. Remove "calories from fat"
** View the changes here, scroll about half way down.
You're dying to hear my thoughts, I know...
  1. Making the total calories larger and bold
    • Won't help someone who doesn't know what a calorie is
    • Won't help if they don't know how many calories should be in something like a granola bar
  2. Make the serves more realistic
    • An inspired idea! Who ever sat down and only ate 11 potato chips?
  3. The %DV
    • It may be useful to have this right next to the corresponding nutrient
    • BUT the %DV in and of itself is actually pretty useless
    • BECAUSE most people don't need 2,000kcal/day (this is an average, meaning 50% of people need more and 50% need less)
    • Most ladies need less, most people over 70 need less, children need less, most men need more, teens need more, very active people need more
    • Bottom line - %DV is not applicable to the majority of the population, why is it there?!
  4. Added sugars
    • I'm on the fence about this... Something like a granola bar tends to have a lot of added sugar, but people think they're healthy... So if people look at the added sugars and realise it isn't a good choice, maybe they won't buy it...?
  5. Remove calories from fat
    • I think this is a good thing, it's the type of fat that is important
    • In case you forgot: Minimise saturated/trans fat, increase poly/monounsaturated fat
Health professionals want you not to feel like this in the supermarket!
What's still missing? The standardised per 100g column. Why?
  • It gives consumers a quick and easy way to compare brands of similar products
  • It's much easier to say "when buying yoghurt, look for a product that has <10g of sugar per 100g"
  • It means manufactures can't hide things like trans fat
    • Currently, trans fat only need appear on the label if there's more than 0.5g per serve
    • If you have a tiny serve, you would see trans fat as 0... when in reality, there is trans fat
    • If you have spray oil, the "serve" is something ridiculous like 0.5 seconds of a spray = 0 calories... Sure, but it's oil! You bet your bottom dollar there are calories there. This is deliberately misleading consumers

Now, compare that to two Australian labels side by side:

Giving consumers the tools to choose healthier products and provide faster, easier, simpler label reading education... If that's not enough to convince you, maybe a slap in the face with a bag of beans would help?

Public comment is open on these proposed changes now through till October 13 2015. Click here and scroll to "comment now on the supplemental proposed rule". Do it!!

Below are some links that give some more info on the Aussie food label and some examples.
And finally, Pie Hole is taking a short sabbatical for the month of August. We'll be back with fantastic new articles about all things food, good health, and nutrition. Stay happy and healthy! 

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