Nutrition Facts Labels: Helpful or Confusing?

As a consumer, do you take time reading the nutrition fact labels of food products? Many health-conscious individuals religiously check the labels of food products before purchasing them. However, not all consumers are aware that the information on labels affixed to smaller packages are only for one serving, and that is quite often NOT for the entire package.  The product may appear to be a single serving package to most people.  However, that is a myth according to the manufacturer’s label.  To keep the calorie count down and other statistics such as fat and salt, they split the contents into a supposed two or more servings.  Soups and beverages are two common culprits for this practice.nutrition-facts-labels

This is because the manufacturers are trying to make their products appear healthier to catch the favorable attention of consumers. By increasing the number of servings per container on the label, the number of calories per serving becomes lower and to many buyers, that’s a very important number.  It’s a very good marketing strategy as it confuses many consumers, so that they buy a product they might not have bought otherwise.

Due to this food fraud, the FDA or Food and Drug Administration has stated that manufacturers need to list the nutrients of the entire package, instead of just a single serving. With the right list, people will make healthier and better food choices. Gina Mohr, a marketing researcher from Colorado State University in Fort Collins said that “it’s so important to make the information as transparent as you can make it for consumers. . .”

Nutrition fact labels are supposed to inform consumers the nutritional value of food products. But because manufacturers want to increase revenue, they do not make the nutritional information clear.  It makes understanding food labels very difficult.

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The following article from REUTERS and published at Nydailynews.com discusses how the labels on food become confusing for most consumers.

Nutrition facts labels: helpful or confusing?

A Food and Drug Administration study recommends changing nutrition labels to display the calorie and nutrition content of the entire container, rather than just one serving. ‘I think people really have a hard time interpreting what food labels mean,’ one researcher said.

People in an FDA study made healthier food choices when the nutrition labels were altered to show the calorie content of an entire package instead of just one serving, agency researchers said.

Different labels on food that clearly display the total number of calories and nutrients in the entire package, rather than just part of it, might help people make healthier food choices, according to a study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

FDA researchers, whose results appeared in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that people were best at assessing things like chips and frozen meals – and comparing the healthfulness of multiple products – when the nutrition facts were presented for the entire container’s worth of food, or for both one serving and the entire container. (Read more about the story here…)

The FDA has considered issuing changes to labeling requirements as consumers get confused by the nutrition facts. However, it’s unclear when this might happen. The video below discusses the front labels of food products and how they can get confusing.

Nutrition Facts Labels On Front of Packages Confusing

FDA researchers have found that consumers made healthier food choices when the serving size of the nutrition fact labels were changed to an entire package instead of one serving. A nutrition researcher from New York University, Marion Nestle added that foods should be labeled in different colors – green, yellow, or red, depending on their healthfulness.

At the end of the day, consumers should be wary of marketing strategies of food manufacturers. Since the FDA is unclear about the new labeling requirements, consumers need to read the nutrition fact labels thoroughly.  From organic, to natural labels, to food servings sizes. . . all of these can be misleading!

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  1. Interesting information!

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