Throughout our site’s history, FoodFacts.com has listed nutrition labels and ingredient lists for thousands of products. With the 20 year anniversary of the federal requirement for nutrition labels to appear on every packaged food product in our grocery stores, we found this interesting news regarding the possibility of a further evolution of this important tool for health-conscious consumers and wanted to share it with you today.
A Food and Drug Administration study recommends changing nutrition labels in order to display total calorie and nutrition content for the entire food package, instead of just one serving.
It appears that a different kind of nutrition label that clearly shows the total number of calories and nutrients in the whole package, instead of just a single part of it can, in fact, help people make healthier food choices.
The FDA conducted a survey involving almost 9500 U.S. adult consumers. The participants were each shown one of the ten different nutrition labels that present calories and nutrient content per serving or per container in a few different manners.
The FDA researchers found that consumers were better able to determine the health value of a variety of different products when the nutrition facts illustrated were for the entire container’s contents – or for both a single serving AND the entire package.
Participants were asked how healthy they thought different products were, including how much fat, for example, was in one serving. They then compared types of chips or frozen meals to determine which was healthier. It appeared to be easier for consumers to determine nutrient content when presented with facts for the whole package. A bag of chips, for example, might contain five servings. Then they need to do the math for the single serving as applied to the whole bag. Given the nutritional information for the whole bag, it was easier for them to determine whether or not it would work with their dietary requirements.
To make products appear healthier, some companies have started increasing the number of servings listed per container, thus lowering the number of calories per serving. And unfortunately, especially in those instances, the consumer is eating a larger quantity than what the manufacturer has specified as a single serving. Manufacturers have a lot of flexibility in how they determine serving size. And this appears to be leading to consumer confusion.
Researchers noted that it isn’t yet known whether or not clearer nutrition facts would affect how consumers reach their food purchasing decisions. It also remains unclear if the FDA will issue changes to labeling requirements because of these findings. What is clear is that introducing a requirement to list nutrition facts for BOTH a single serving as well as the entire package would simplify the information for the purchaser. It’s worth pointing out that there are some products already doing this.
On the FoodFacts.com website, you’ll already find this information for every product in our database. We’re one step ahead on the issue, as we’ve also considered the possibility that “doing the math” is made much simpler for consumers when they know the content for the whole package. We think this is a great way for people to understand more about what they’re eating and we’re all for the FDA making a change that can help everyone make healthier choices in the grocery store.