FDA Nutrition Label Proposals Fall Short

Public health officials are continuing to push for more accurate food labels. Current proposals by the FDA include updating size requirements, readjusting what is considered a modern day single serving, and including amounts of added sugar. David Kessler, former FDA commissioner, and William Dietz, former official of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention argue that these revisions are not enough.

Overall, Kessler and Dietz argue for the further clarity of nutrition labels, and aim to increase the public understand of nutrition. While the new labels emphasize calories and sugar content, they  fail to encourage consumers to purchase “real foods”- fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Many customers focus on calorie intake when attempting to make healthy choices. However, despite being low in calorie, many of processed low-cal options are not considered healthy, or as healthy as traditional fruits and vegetables. In addition, foods that are high in sugar are often marketed as healthy simply by adding fiber- a tactic often employed by cereal/breakfast bar producers.

According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, an industry group representing food, beverage, and consumer product companies, it is

“critical that any changes are based on the most current and reliable science. Equally as important is ensuring that any changes ultimately serve to inform, and not confuse, consumers.”

A second tactic urged by Kessler and Dietz is the simplification of food labels regarding product ingredients lists. For example, “sugar” can be included in lists as maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.

Tiny type, complex names, and confusing formats make many ingredient lists almost impossible to read or understand,” Kessler says.

A final recommendation includes front-of-package labels, an effort that was undertaken by the FDA but stalled in 2009. The proposed labels would include a list of the major 3 ingredients, calorie count, and number of additional ingredients. While officials argue that further changes need to be made, the current revisions to food labels are a strong starting point for efforts by the FDA to improve the nutritional qualities of consumers’ diets.


Read more here- “Proposed Food Label Changes Fall Short, Former FDA Head Says,” (Anjali Athavaley, Reuters)

Read more here- “Health Officials Push Food Label Changes,” (Herald Sun)

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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.


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