Manufacturers to post nutritional info on packages
Could changing nutrition labels to reflect how we eat rather than how we should be eating help get rid of bad snacking habits?health and fitness Updated: Feb 11, 2010 18:53 IST
Seeking a new weapon in the fight against obesity, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, wants to encourage manufacturers to post vital nutritional information, including calorie counts, on the front of food packages.
But official serving sizes for many packaged foods are just too small. And that means the calorie counts that go with them are often misleading. How many of us are disciplined snackers who actually stop after eating the exact serving size worth of potato chips?
So the goal now is to give people a jolt of reality before they reach for another handful of munchies.
Misled by serving size
To get ready for front-of-package nutrition labelling, the FDA is now looking at bringing serving sizes for foods like chips, cookies, breakfast cereals and ice cream into line with how people really eat, rather than how much they should be eating. Combined with more prominent labelling, the result could be a greater sense of public caution about unhealthy foods.
“If you put on a meaningful portion size, it would scare a lot of people,” said Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina. “They would see, ‘I’m going to get 300 calories from that, or 500 calories.”’
The problem is important because the standard serving size shown on a package determines all nutritional values on the label, including calorie counts. If the serving size is smaller than what people really eat — unless they study the label carefully — they may think they are getting fewer calories than they are.
What you really get
“If people don’t understand the serving, whatever number they get for fat or calories is misleading,” said William K. Hubbard, a former FDA official.
Consider the humble chip: most potato chip packs show a 30 g serving size, containing about a tolerable 150 calories. For certain brands, that could translate to just six chips. Now, in the real world, many people might eat two or three times that and take in 1,000 calories.
For ice cream, the serving size is half a cup. For packaged muffins, it is often half a muffin. For most breakfast cereals, a serving is 3/4 cup. But many children probably eat two cups or more. Parents who glance at a box of Frosted Flakes and see that it contains 110 calories per serving may not realise that their children may be getting several times that amount.