Changes in food labels could help consumers

By Amy Wimmer Schwarb • Published: May 20th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’ve ever polished off a bag of chips only to discover that the entire bag contained three and one-third servings, the federal Food and Drug Administration is trying to look out for you.

Proposed changes to nutrition labels could require food packagers to reveal the calorie count and other information for entire containers of foods, not just ideal serving sizes.

The reason for the proposed changes is simple: In the universe of food and nutrition, serving size matters.

The FDA is responding to recent research that shows consumers often miscalculate the calories and other nutrition content of items that technically contain more than one serving but are generally gobbled down in one sitting.

The agency is eyeing two possible solutions: a second column of nutritional facts that lists total package info alongside the numbers for one serving size, or a new set of numbers that simply gives info for the entire package.

An online study that presented more than 9,000 participants with fictitious nutrition labels found that people can better calculate their calories if given information for entire packages.

Researchers are also looking at other minor changes to the labels, such as getting rid of the number that details how many calories come from fat, or perhaps enlarging the font size for the total number of calories.

The nutrition facts label was introduced just 20 years ago, but today grocery shoppers nationwide depend on its accuracy. And even as growing numbers of people use the labels to make smart purchases, Americans’ waistlines continue to grow.

The new labels could help remind consumers that good things come in small packages, big packages can contain too much of a good thing.