I love seeing people look at nutrition labels when I grocery shop. It makes me feel like they’re voting with their forks and dollars, putting down that 19g of sugar per serving cereal in lieu of a more whole, less processed version. But to someone who’s just starting to look beyond the calorie content of the label, it can be pretty rough.
You should see me try to buy a food bar. You know, like of the Clif or Luna varieties. It usually takes at least 10 minutes to make a decision as I carefully study each label for fiber-to-protein ratios and, most lately, which has the fewest ingredients with sugar and syrups hopefully not making an appearance on the list. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m an avid label-reader and it still takes me a LONG time to buy food in boxes/packaging if I don’t already know which product has exactly what I’m looking for.
Luckily, the FDA has plans to revamp the nutrition info on packages, suggesting nixing the Calories From Fat info, making the font bigger, finagling with kooky portion sizing, and including dual columns (one for the entire package, one for the serving size–since we’ve all eaten The Whole Thing at one point or another).
“I got pickles and it said a fourth of a pickle was the serving size,” one consumer said. Dude. Right?
Now, while I agree the labels need clarification, I’m a bit wary on including dual columns or getting rid of the fat calories. Fat content is overemphasized and demonized anyway, but it’s still important information. They should absolutely keep what KINDS of fat are in it, as we all know Jiffy Peanut Butter fat is a far different creature than avocado or almond fat. Maybe even launch a national Good Fat Bad Fat educational campaign so people know WHY trans fats are bad for you. (Fatucation?)
When I was in Spain and Turkey over the summer, there were some key differences in food labeling. Mostly, everything was in kilojoules (kJ) but did have a kilocalorie (kCal) column usually. Or they would label the calories as Energy, which was my favorite (For Example: Energy: 210 kCal), because food IS energy.
A few years ago, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program partnered up with Good Magazine to hold a redesign of the current nutrition label. Michael Pollan was even on the judging panel. Here’s the winner:
The other designs are really thought-provoking also. It’s so interesting to see this information presented in a different way after it has become so ubiquitous.
Anyway, I’m interested to see how this all plays out, and it’s got me thinking how I would revamp the labeling if it were up to me. I don’t have any solid answers yet, but one thing I do like seeing is the calorie content, fat, and sugar right on the front of the package, like so:
It was actually the candy company Mars that first started doing this! That makes me love them despite their rampant use of partially hydrogenated oils to keep their (delicious) products shelf-stable.
FDA Wants to Give Nutrition Labels an Overhaul, CBS Baltimore
Rethink the Food Label, News21