Entries in Food labels (3)


FDA Suggests Serving Sizes on Food Labels Should Change

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite nutritional labels on food and drinks, most of us have no clue how much we're actually consuming, according to a new study from the Food and Drug Administration.

The agency says most people don't accurately calculate what makes up a serving size.

For instance, take a bag of chips.  If one serving of the snack has 90 calories, and there are 10 servings in a bag, how many chips is that exactly?  Guessing the serving size may be confusing for many and could lead to people consuming more calories than they think.

To remedy that, the FDA is suggesting that labels should be modified to reflect the values for a full container.  So instead of that bag of chips showing 90 calories per serving on its label, it would show 900 calories per bag.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Food Label Omissions Can Cause Allergic Reactions

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Food labeling in the United States has undergone significant changes over the past decade to prevent customers from experiencing allergic reactions, but there's still a long way to go, experts say.

"It's a very difficult topic to find a perfect solution for," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor and researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.  "Companies can always make a mistake and have recalls if a product is found to have a mislabeled an ingredient in it.  Unless someone gets sick from it, they wouldn't know it was there."

The Food and Drug Administration and manufacturers have issued 20 recalls in the last 60 days for undeclared allergens in food products, including Chicken of the Sea tuna, which had undeclared soy; two kinds of Wegmans brownie mix with undeclared milk; and two kinds of ice cream with undeclared pecans, according to FDA records.

An ABC News analysis found more than 400 recalls for undeclared allergens in food reported to the FDA since March 2009.  More than 140 of them were for desserts and snack foods, like cookies, candy and ice cream.  Repeat brand recalls were often from grocery stores, such as Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods Market and Wegmans.

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies, according to a 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that found an 18 percent rise in children diagnosed with food allergies between 1997 and 2007.

Federal law requires manufacturers to list the top eight allergens on food labels in plain English -- "milk" instead of "casein," for example.  The law, called the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, went into effect in 2006.

But other allergens, like sesame, don't have to be called out on food labels.  It's also possible that products that don't contain an allergen can become contaminated with it if the allergen-free product is made or packaged in the same factory as a product containing that allergen.

"Advisory labeling, some people call this precautionary labeling," Sicherer said, "those types of comments are totally voluntary.  They're not part of the law."

As such, the labels aren't consistent with one another.  Labels can say "may contain peanuts," or "made in a facility that also processes nuts," which many allergic people find confusing.  It's possible a manufacturer failed to write an advisory or that the manufacturer over-labeled on items that were at low risk for contamination.

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler said he's never had a case in which someone had an allergic reaction because a manufacturer failed to say it intentionally put nuts or milk in its product, but he's had cross-contamination cases.

"I think there's probably a lot more of these not-straight-up labeling issues," he said.  "I do think the manufacturing process is open to mistakes being made, especially when they're making multiple types of food in the same facility."

Dr. Donna Hummell, an allergist at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University said chocolate and candy are often especially risky foods for people with nut allergies to eat.

"If you can buy it with almonds in it or buy it plain or buy it with peanuts in it, it's better to watch out," Hummell said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Labels Would Be Like Energy Star Stickers on Food

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- To help shoppers make healthier food choices, the Institute of Medicine has called for a new food labeling system that would require nutritional information to appear on the front of the package instead of on the back.

Like the Energy Star tag that helps shoppers compare appliances, the new front label would, theoretically, make it easier for customers to compare the number of calories, and the fat, sodium and sugar content  in cans of soup, boxes of cereal and tubs of yogurt without having to turn the product over and squint to read the small print on the back.

The IOM got to work on a new labeling system following what can only be called the Smart Choices debacle. Smart Choices was a front-of-package nutrition label developed by the food industry that  led to the infamous conclusion that Froot Loops was a smart choice for breakfast.

That, among other dubious findings, invited the wrath of the federal government, and Smart Choices was retired.

The IOM then stepped in to review food labeling in a two-phase effort, culminating in its latest recommendation.

And its latest recommendation does have its advantages: For one, it could unify the food industry’s different product icons and symbols into a single system. It could also highlight potentially harmful nutrients very visibly on the front of the package and  put the reins on deceptive marketing to some degree.

Despite its advantages, the IOM’s new labeling system is not without its weaknesses. The system was designed with no market research, and it didn’t even use consumer focus groups. Relying on previously published literature, the IOM failed to answer what food guidance works best for consumers or what kind of labeling could change purchasing behavior and lead to better health outcomes.

Also,  if calories, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar and sodium are to be called out, then diet soda, which contains none of these elements, would likely pass through the IOM’s  filter as a perfect food, while walnuts, avocados or nut butters, which are highly nutritious but energy dense, would appear as bad choices.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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