Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

January 28, 2014

Changing food labels

FDA says nutrition facts label will get a makeover

(Continued)

There's evidence that more people are reading the labels in recent years.

An Agriculture Department study said 42 percent of working adults used the panel always or most of the time in 2009 and 2010, up from 34 percent two years earlier. Older adults were more likely to use it.

The revised label is expected to make the calorie listing more prominent, and Regina Hildwine of the Grocery Manufacturers Association said that could be useful to consumers. Her group represents the nation's largest food companies.

Hildwine said the FDA also has suggested that it may be appropriate to remove the "calories from fat" declaration on the label.

It's not yet clear what other changes the FDA could decide on. Nutrition advocates are hoping the agency adds a line for sugars and syrups that are not naturally occurring in foods and drinks and are added when they are processed or prepared. Now, some sugars are listed separately among the ingredients and some are not.

It may be difficult for the FDA to figure out how to calculate added sugars, however. Food manufacturers are adding naturally occurring sugars to their products so they can label them as natural — but the nutrition content is no different.

Other suggestions from health advocates:

— Add the percentage of whole wheat to the label. Many manufacturers will label products "whole wheat" when there is really only a small percentage of it in the food.

— Clearer measurements. Jacobson of the CSPI and others have suggested that the FDA use teaspoons, as well as grams, for added sugars.

— Serving sizes that make sense. There's no easy answer, but health experts say that single-size servings that are clearly meant to be eaten in one sitting will often list two or three servings on the label, making the calorie and other nutrient information deceptive. The FDA said last year that it may add another column to the labels, listing nutrition information per serving and per container. The agency may also adjust recommended serving sizes for some foods.

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