Thoughts on the Proposed Nutritional Label Changes
The announcement for updating the labeling of nutritional info came out a little while ago, and there was some discussion in social media, etc. But I thought I'd make a few comments here on the blog.
So here are the current and proposed labels:
I think the new labeling would be a definite improvement, but I think we can do better.
- Calories are clear per serving. While this seems to be a no-brainer, food manufacturers who break down serving size to disguise calories will be less able to do so. My biggest peeve are canned items intended for single servings or two like soup. Rules should not allow half servings!
- Numbers down left column are much more eyeball friendly
- Added Sugars: I think this is good for everyone. As an example, some sugar added to pasta sauces is a time honored cooking "trick". There are also natural sugars in tomato sauce. Itemizing would make picking sauces much simpler.
The Bad or Indifferent:
- Protein is almost an after thought, and no %DV?
- Vitamins and minerals will be changed from the highest content to a "get enough" list. While it may be more important for some to "get enough" iron, this too much for others, and this method picks winners and losers. When you have so many, I think the older form would be better.
- Percentages of Daily Values are highlighted even more than before. These are probably the least likely values to be used by consumers.
- Itemizing so-called "bad fats" without itemizing the rest is ridiculous at this point. It demonizes saturated fat needlessly while failing to highlight the beneficial fat content of other foods (MUFA and O3)
- Sodium and Cholesterol as special constituents. I guess this is always going to be, but perhaps a listing under special considerations and include a few other things some need to avoid/limit would be more meaningful.
Let me say I've already had some other thoughts here, they waste too much space being redundant at the top. They could put the calories, serving size and servings per container in a square on the left side and put the macro pie chart on the right on top. That works ;-)
|Forgive the crude repetition on the bottom there and also|
a total lack of effort to make up numbers in the left column
Eliminate %DV Entirely:
For starters, you cannot guide an overall diet at the individual food label level. Especially if you want to encourage including foods without labels! Give people the clear information to use in their overall plan.
Let's assume that I actually am that 2000 cal/day person, and my ideal diet is the usual target 15% protein, 30% fat, 55% carb. Do you know anyone who looks at a label and says "oh I've had 30% of my saturated fat for the day, and 25% of my carbs, make mental note"? No. Those who are looking at labels for useful information are going to be tracking grams of this or that and how those fit into targets for their individual needs.
Also ... because math:
Relatively few people actually consume 2000 calories per day, even if we accept that this might be an average intake. Why? Well, more likely the average woman consumes fewer calories and the average man more. The distribution probably looks something like the "bimodal distribution" at right. Thus most people have either lower or higher values and are going to have to do mental math to adjust.
Knowing you've reached 10% of the 30% fat you are targeting for the day is complicated enough. But what if you were to convert that 15% of the 30% of 2000 calories to a percent of 30% of 1500 calories or 2500 calories? Or what if you are eating a lower fat diet of say 20%? I did a little math in the table here for how many calories and grams of fat represent 30% of total calories for 2000 and then 2500 and 1500 calories. I then did the calculation for what the %DV would be for 10 grams of fat. Maybe I'm in left field here, but if I'm targeting my fat intake and I'm eating 10 grams, it is much easier to get that info from the label and then say well, I've got 40, 57 or 73 grams left.
Protein to the Top!
The above analysis was initially done for protein and then I noticed they don't even do %DV for that and stick it at the bottom under cholesterol and sodium!! If they want to dictate overall diet on food labels, perhaps under that they could put a good minimum gram/lb body weight note underneath?
Grams to the Left!
So they put those useless %DV on the left margin for clarity. No! Put the grams clearly on the left. This is much better info even if you think there is utility in that %DV. Also, not shown, should bold the major macro totals for protein, fat and carbs.
More Complete Macronutrient Breakdowns:
It makes no sense to me to break out "bad" fats like saturated fat and trans fats and not itemize the so-called "healthy" MUFA and omega-3 fats. This is especially puzzling given that the benefits of these fats in the diet are pretty well documented (as opposed to supplements that remain more controversial/conflicting).
The starch breakout in carbohydrates may seem redundant, but why not do complete breakdowns. Things will add up!
A Little Macro Pie Chart:
I don't think this is that useful in trying to make daily targets or anything like that. I suppose if one tried to match their personal macro pie with each food as best as possible, but that's not how it works in the real world.
The utility of the pie chart is illustrated with this item ... whatever it is. It jumps right out at you that this is a low protein food. (I think a lot of low carbers need to see these pie charts for some foods they demonize as carbs!!) Regardless of what one is trying to do ... track, meet, target, etc. ... if you're short on protein, you pass on this, high on carbs, pass, looking to cut the fat, pass. And so it goes.
Amounts for Main Micros:
My "label" shows amounts for 8 vitamins and minerals (yes they were just C&P'd) with the idea that these would be the top 8 perhaps qualified if the food is a good source of a hard to meet micro. I don't like the idea of just using a short list of "desired" micros because not everyone has the same needs in this regard. This might also mask a food high in some micro some might need to avoid. List the info. Frankly, except for the CRON people who use special software to micromanage their diets anyway, I don't think most people give any notice to this part of nutrition labels.
Since It's the Government Anyway:
The food manufacturers get most of their info from USDA databases and such. Have all labeled foods "registered" and added to the data base and assigned a barcode. Do it for the big fast food chains and restaurants too. Have free apps to run on every platform where you can type in a number or scan the code (or take a picture). Have scanners in the store so if someone wants any detailed info they can go to the scanner just like I can do a price check at most department stores. Problem solved. Anyone looking further than the gross basics of calories and grams is going to prefer this anyway.
You can't dictate diet at the food label level. Yes. I repeated that.