Added Sugar Replaces Fat as Ingredient to Watch For

Michelle Obama unveiled a series of proposed changes to the food label last Thursday. These changes, she said, will help consumers make better, more informed decisions.

The nutrition label was due for an update, as the way we eat and nutrition science have moved along quite a bit, and a revision has been in the works for a decade, but given how difficult it is to change anything in the food industry, most expected little tweaks rather than bold changes.

Instead, the proposal surprised with a few very meaningful modifications. The new suggested label updates the serving sizes, admitting that people don’t drink just half a bottle of soda, leave a bagel half eaten, or serve just half a cup of ice cream. Calories will be displayed loud and clear, grabbing our attention as the largest, most prominent item on the label. But the most audacious part of the proposal: food companies will have to list how much sugar they add to a product. Up until now, when a kid had flavored milk a parent could only know the total sugar in the drink — the sugar naturally occurring in milk, and the sugar added as sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or the many other sugar forms. This extra line on the food label is especially important for products that contain fruits and dairy, both of which have innate sugars, but to which manufacturers can add sweeteners for taste and appeal, and up until now we had no way of knowing how much.

nutrition facts label proposed revision

Nutrition facts label proposed revision. Source: Food and Drug Administration. Red highlights are my addition.

 

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