Bella Farkas
May 28, 2016
Social Studies / CE
Mod 3


News: Analyzing Two Sources - A Change In The Way Food Labels Are Written


The Editorial Board. (2016, May 25). A Food Label That Gets Right to the Point. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/25/opinion/a-food-label-that-gets-right-to-the-point.html?mabReward=CTM&action=click&pgtype=Homepage®ion=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine&_r=0: May 28, 2016


Christensen, J. (2016, May 23). Your food labels are getting a makeover, FDA announces. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/20/health/food-labels-change/index.html: May 28, 2016


Compare and Contrast:

On Friday, May 27, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially approved a mandatory change in our national food labels. This approval by the FDA, which has been widely welcomed, will start to affect the industry in the next two to three years depending upon the size of the manufacturing business. One emphasis of this new food label is making it easier for shoppers “to see how many calories [they] are eating, with a bolder font,” as well as how much added sugar is in the food item being purchased. But possibly the most anticipated change is the change to make it “clearer what a serving size is and [to] define "serving size" to fit better with the amount a person currently eats.”


Jen Christensen of CNN feels that this is an important change that will help a large number of Americans make better informed choices regarding their dietary needs. As she notes, “the majority of Americans do look at labels when they shop. According to government research, about 77% of U.S. adults say they do.” This means that there is certainly a market that could use this change if executed as expected. On the other hand, the Editorial Board of the New York Times is much more sceptical of the approval. While they admit that there are some useful changes being made, such as the newly approved bold font and the new category for added sugars, the editorial board notes that these new regulations still leave many trying to calculate calories in grocery aisles based on information located on the back of products, which leads them to believe that “to really help shoppers, the F.D.A. needs a whole new approach to food labeling.”



The New York Times sited this “whole new approach” which had been proposed by the Institute of Medicine in 2011. Their approach was to have simple guidelines posted on the front of packages which were to include a calorie count and “three points-- displayed as check marks or stars-- showing how well the food conformed to dietary recommendation. An item would earn one point each for having an acceptable level of saturated or trans fats, of sodium or of added sugars.” For shoppers who require more detail about the product’s nutritional information, there would be an additional label on the back of the product that would be more in depth. This suggested label was shot down by the the Grocery Manufacturers Association after being proposed, but is recently being reevaluated by the FDA for future use.


Opinions On the News Stories:

While the FDA may describe this new label as a “major step” in limiting our country's widespread obesity, something we certainly need “with more than two-thirds of adults considered overweight or obese,” I don't believe that this food label will make any noticeable difference. Don't get me wrong, there are some useful changes being made such as a “category for added sugars [which] will help consumers distinguish between sugar from fruits and vegetables, which comes with nutrients, and sugar that provides only empty calories,” and clearer defined serving sizes to “fit better with the amount a person currently eats,” but I don't believe that these changes are affecting the people in our country that the label is aiming to aid.


I found a particularly interesting statistic shared by Jen Christensen of CNN that said that “according to government research, about 77% of U.S. adults say they do [use food labels].” As promising as this statistic may be to the FDA, this statistic does not say what product’s food labels are being examined by Americans. I know that when I am in grocery stores, the people I see comparing food label are almost always comparing the labels of junk food products such as chips, to find a product that is slightly less “junky.” Nobody compares the food labels of local cheeses and local organic meats or vegetables, these foods don't come with food labels.


At the end of the day, the food manufacturers will do whatever it takes to make their food products appear healthier than they actually are. If they’re not distorting the serving size then they are finding another loophole in the labeling process. To truly combat our country's widespread obesity we must educate people on the merits of purchasing non-processed whole foods.



Sources:


(CNN) The labels on the food you buy are going to look a lot different in the next two to three years, and the government hopes the change will help you make healthier decisions.
First lady Michelle Obama made the announcement about the FDA-approved revamp of the labels today. The new labels should make it easier for you to see how many calories you are eating, with a bolder font. Manufacturers will also have to list how much added sugar is in the food you are buying.
The labels should also make it clearer what a serving size is and will define "serving size" to fit better with the amount a person currently eats.
The nutrition labels haven't changed significantly in two decades. Unlike dietary guidelines that must be re-examined every five years, there is no legal requirement to revisit the science behind these labels.
Nutrients will also get a makeover. The new labels will prioritize what Americans need more of, such as potassium and Vitamin D. Studies show that Americans don't get enough of either in their diets. Products will also have to say how much calcium and iron are inside, but Vitamins C and A are out. That's because deficiencies in those vitamins are now rare, according to the Food and Drug Administration.


Supplement labels will also be updated to reflect the changes.
Most food makers have two years to add the new labels to their products. Smaller manufacturers, those that have less than $10 million in sales, get an extra year to update their labels.
The majority of Americans do look at labels when they shop. According to government research, about 77% of U.S. adults say they do.
The FDA said the label change is a "major step." With more than two-thirds of adults considered overweight or obese, the ease of access to nutrition information could help.
"The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource so consumers can make more informed food choices," FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in a statement today. Making better choices is "one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity."

(New York Times) If you’ve ever eaten a handful of potato chips only to find out that, according to the package, you’ve just consumed two full servings and way more calories than you thought, help is on the way. New labels announced by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday will come with more realistic serving sizes, among other changes. But to really help shoppers, the F.D.A. needs a whole new approach to food labeling.
The new serving sizes, along with calorie counts in a large, bold font, are likely to make the new labels easier to read and more helpful. A category for added sugars will help consumers distinguish between sugar from fruits and vegetables, which comes with nutrients, and sugar that provides only empty calories.
But the labels, which most food companies will have to use by July 2018, still have serious limitations. They require busy shoppers to absorb a lot of facts, not all of which are equally important, and then do the math themselves while standing in the grocery aisle. And the labels are on the back of the package, where only the most motivated shoppers will look.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicinerecommended a simple, front-of-package labeling system that would solve these problems. Based on an extensive review of research into consumer behavior, the labels would include the number of calories per serving and one to three “points” — displayed as check marks or stars — showing how well the food conformed to dietary recommendations. An item would earn one point each for having an acceptable level of saturated or trans fats, of sodium or of added sugars. Foods would receive zero points if their fat, sodium or sugar content surpassed a designated limit.
Shoppers would get key facts in a quick, easy-to-read format. They could then refer to the nutrition label on the back of the package if they wanted more information.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food industry group, called the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation “untested” and “interpretive.” Along with the Food Marketing Institute, it developed its own front-of-package labeling system, which includes some useful information, but is more complex and less helpful than the institute’s version.
The F.D.A. is studying both the institute’s recommendations and industry-led labeling efforts, but it’s not clear when or if the agency will require front-of-package labels. The food industry, of course, wants to make its products appear as healthy as possible. The F.D.A. would serve consumers best by taking the Institute of Medicine’s good advice and putting clear and concise nutrition labels right where most shoppers will see them.