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Reading Nutrition Labels

It doesn't just seem confusing to you, it actually is confusing - to everyone! Reading nutrition labels has become somewhat of a science in itself, as producers do their best to sway customers to buy their product based on health claims that may or may not be misleading.

A recent Time article  delved into the world of reading nutrition labels, and how often times the labels either on the front or side of a package can sway consumers to purchase the product.

 In fact, the article says that most people that they stopped to interview (in the cereal isle of a grocery store) said their choices in cereal were guided either by past purchases or by the front of the box labeling. 

But, consumers need to be aware that often times those front-of-the-box labels can be very misleading. The example that Time used was Dreyer's Dibs Ice Cream snacks. The box touts on the front that it contents "0g of Trans Fat," which certainly is a good thing. However, it fails to mention alongside that claim that it does contain 28g of fat and 20g of saturated fat per serving, which certainly wouldn't pursued me to buy it! 

Another popular nutrition claim that Time reveals is that companies will often times add "a micronutrient or two" to the item, and then advertise the added benefits of it being a "rich source of antioxidants" or containing added vitamins and minerals. The article makes an interesting point, however, that foods of the past were fortified because of nutrient deficiencies, however, in today's world vitamin deficiencies are at an all time low, so these "added benefits" are really just (yet another) marketing ploy.  

The FDA, for their part, are somewhat trying to combat the case of misleading nutritional claims. The article states that in February the FDA sent letters to 17 companies demanding that they correct obviously misleading cases on their foods. However, 17 companies seems like a drop in the bucket to me. Clearly, this is only a starting point, and is not going to produce a finished product of making nutrition labels easier to decipher. 

The FDA is currently looking into adjusting label regulations and wants consumers' input on what they are looking for. You can access this form  and submit your comments directly to the FDA. 

Personally, I would like to see the following:
1) Show a serving size that is actually legitimate. Who eats 8 tortilla chips? Should that really count as a serving?

2) Don't allow foods with "less than 5 calories per serving" to be labeled as calorie free. This applies to lots of replacement foods (which really, I'm working on eliminating!) It can also apply to things like trans fat - if the serving size has less than 0.5g per serving, it can be labeled as trans fat free. But, see above complaint #1, serving sizes are ridiculous, so you could really be looking at ingesting way more trans fat than you think you are.

3) Allow rBGH free labels - these aren't allowed because farmers who use rBGH claim that by advertising that the milk is rBGH free, you are implying that milk produced with rBGH is somehow different from milk produced without it. Well, yeah, it does kind of imply that, but it is eternally frustrating as a consumer who wants to buy milk that is produced without rBGH (and willing to pay more for it) that I cannot know while I'm standing at the grocery store which ones are produced with and which ones are produced without. It forces me to do research before I go to the store in order to make sure I'm getting rBGH free milk. 

What changes would you like to see? There are so many, I can't even begin to finish a list of all the things that I would like to change, but I would love to hear your suggestions!

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