Nutrition Labels, More Changes Coming?


by Matt Weik

Not too long ago I wrote an article about how the nutrition labels found on packaging could soon have “exercise equivalents” on them. The reason for this addition is to make people aware of how much someone would have to exercise in order to burn off a serving of whatever product they are looking to purchase or what they already purchased and are preparing to eat. There are mixed feelings on whether the addition of an exercise equivalent would make any difference in the food choices people make or if it would help cut back on the overweight/obesity rates in the United States. Personally, I feel it will have very little effect overall.

Now the nutrition label could have yet another addition. Soon, nutrition labels will wrap all the way around the product packaging if they keep adding things to it. But in this case they are looking to roll out a new requirement that will hit all packaging by the year 2018. The FDA has announced that they will be requiring most packaged foods to have a new line on the facts panel calling out on how much added sugar a product contains. It will have the same layout as all the other facts where it will be stated in grams along with the daily value percentage according to a 2,000 calorie diet. Their reasoning behind this addition has to do with rising concerns about the amount of sugar American’s are consuming each day and the amount of added sugar manufacturers are adding into their products.

This change begs the question, “do people care?” In my honest opinion, the answer is no. If they cared, they would have already been making changes to their lifestyle and nutrition and if they didn’t know how to make the change they would be asking for help. Do I feel this will change the eating habits of Americans? Nope.

An additional change they will be making (for those with poor vision or those who simply don’t care to look) is an increased font size for the serving size and calories per serving. I think the biggest issue revolving around this particular change is that people don’t know what a given serving size looks like. Making the font larger and more prominent won’t change anything. Majority of the people out there aren’t going to get out a scale or a measuring tool in order to figure out the correct serving size. They will simply open up the packaging and start eating without any knowledge of how much they ate. This will be more noticeable with convenience foods and quick grab-and-go products where you aren’t measuring items out for a recipe or meal. Chips, candy, pretzels, and the like all come to mind.

While more expensive, I love individual servings of food items. It saves you from having to measure anything out and you can quickly grab it and go if you’re in a hurry without having to get a separate bag or container to put it in. I find the convenience of an individual package/serving makes things so much easier for the general public as well (not just for those who are health conscious). But again, it’s not difficult to measure something out prior to eating it and the cost associated with individual servings sizes will push many people away and turn them more towards buying in bulk (which is a great way to save money and stock up on a particular item/product).

Overall, the changes that are looking to be implemented are being put in place to educate the consumer, encouraging us to look at labels and nutritional facts more and basing eating and purchasing habits off of what we see on the packaging. I’ll reiterate my position again on this. While I think this is a great step toward educating the consumer, it won’t change anything. Each individual has to have that want in their mind to make the lifestyle change and clean up their diet and be more aware of what they are putting in their body. Until they reach that point, they’ll refuse to even look at the nutrition label and will fill up their grocery cart with whatever foods they desire.