New Nutrition Labels Will Make You Feel Guilty

J. David Ake/AP

First lady Michelle Obama and the Food and Drug Administration are set to announce new food labeling regulations Thursday, the final product of which you can see here. 

The label on the left reflects the current design. The label on the right is new. Aside from a much cleaner overall presentation, it's clear what the new design is intended to do: make you see the calories both in a serving and in the entire package of food. 

The new labels also add the category "added sugars," which are defined as any sugars that aren't naturally found in fruit. This may prove to be controversial, as some will argue that sugar is sugar no matter the form.  Others will point out that added sugars, and not fruit sugars, are the more closely correlated with diabetes and heart disease. Likewise, "calories from fat" will not appear on the new labels to not distract from the types of fat (saturated, trans), which are more meaningful measures of a food's health worthiness. 

Along with the labels come new regulations for serving sizes. They will now be based on what people "actually eat." No longer will a serving of ice cream be half a cup (come on, do you really stop scooping after exactly half a cup?). It will be a cup (which, let's be honest, is still kind of small). As Reuters reports, "The number of calories in a serving of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream, for example, would be about 660 instead of the current 330." That's 100 calories more than a Big Mac. Family-sized foods such as potato chips must have two nutrition columns: one for individual servings, and one for "yeah, you're going to eat this whole bag of chips alone."

The food industry is sure to fight back. The announcement of the new labels starts a 90-day period for public comment, to which the FDA can respond to and change the design. The Washington Post reports the process could take a year. Then, the labels (which will cost the food industry $2 billion) will be phased in over the next three years. 

The FDA's own recent research found that increasing the font size of the calories alone did not "improve participant's comprehension over the current label." What it did find more conclusively was that to decrease the amount of servings in a package (and thereby increase the per serving calories), "caused the participants to rate the products as being less healthful."

Changes aside, the new labels still don't address some of the fundamental problems with the older nutrition fact labels, such as the fact that the FDA allows for a 20 percent margin of error when it comes to calculating calories. And only time and research can tell if the labels work as they are designed to—that is, change consumer behavior, and thereby quell the obesity epidemic. 

Click to enlarge.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.