With consumers now reading nutrition labels more than ever before, it looks like the Food and Drug Administration is taking measures to have nutrition labels that better address ignored nutritional information as well as answer customers questions and concerns so they can make better informed choices about what foods to consume and what to avoid. more accurate and easy-to-understand nutrition information.
A proposal sent recently to the White House from the FDA states: Diet is a significant factor in the reduction in risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity. While the FDA has sent the new label guidelines to the White House, there is no public estimation as to when the new guidelines will be put in place.
The traditional nutrition food label which has been in existence almost 20 years since its introduction in 1993 has no longer become effective for actually explaining to customers the nutrition value of what is in the product. And a consensus has continued to grow that people do not trust if a product is good for them based on the nutrition label. Comments about the nutrition labels reveal that they are complicated, do not make the calorie listings prominent, address dozens of substance numbers that most people arent familiar with, and do not specifically answer consumers questions and concerns.
Last week ABC News brought attention to the concern by highlighting data that shows consumers increased interest in reading nutrition labels to make product selections. According to a Health and Diet Survey in 2008, 54 percent of consumers reported using nutrition labels to make informed product choices. This figure rose 44 percent from 2002s percentage. The FDA estimates now that over half of all consumers now rely on product labels to make healthy diet decisions. According to a recently released Agriculture Department study, in 2009 and 2010 a greater percentage of adults reported using the nutrition facts panel and other claims on food packages always or most of the time as compared to the percentage two years earlier.
It is not clear yet what information the new nutrition labels will include but USA Today recently reported that many nutrition experts are hoping for increased transparency around artificial ingredients, preservatives, dyes, genetically-modified ingredients and syrups. Many consumers would also like more serving size clarity, front-facing labels and a breakdown of serving sizes that make more sense as well as a prominent display of the calories in the product, the amount of added sugar listed in teaspoons and grams - and the percentage of the products whole wheat due to the fact that many manufacturers label whole wheat even if there is only a small percentage of it in the food. One of the FDAs suggestions is to remove the calories from fat listing on the label.
Consumers also want to know if the sugar content is natural or artificial. It is also hoped that a line will be added about sugars and syrups that do not naturally occur in foods and drinks, but are added when prepared or processed due to the fact that some food manufacturers add naturally occurring sugars to their products so they can label them as natural.
History Of The FDA Food Nutrition Label
In 1990 the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was established, requiring all packaged foods to bear nutrition labeling and all health claims for foods to be consistent with terms defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The law pre-empted state requirements about food standards, nutrition labeling, and health claims and for the first time authorized some health claims for foods. The food ingredient panel, serving sizes and terms such as low fat and light were also standardized.
In 1992, nutrition facts and basic per-serving nutritional information was required on foods under the Nutrition labeling and Education Act of 1990. Based on the latest public health recommendations, FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture recreated the food label to list the most important nutrients in an easy-to-follow format.
In 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act established specific labeling requirements to provide a regulatory framework. It also authorized the FDA to promulgate good manufacturing practice regulations for dietary supplements. This act defined dietary supplements and dietary ingredients and classified them as food. The act also established a commission to recommend how to regulate claims.
To help consumers choose heart healthy foods, the Department of Health and Human Services announced in 2003 that FDA would require food labels to include trans fat content. This was the first substantive change to the nutrition facts panel since the label was changed in 1993.
In 2004, the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was passed, requiring the labeling of any food that contains a protein derived from peanuts, soybeans, cows milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat; proteins that, as a group, account for the vast majority of food allergies.