The FDA Wants Your Help With Food Labels
The FDA is asking for your help with their new food labeling guidelines.
The FDA is seeking help from the public for its upcoming redefinition of long-standing nutritional claims on food labels. Food manufacturers have been getting away with labeling something “Sugar-free” but still be loaded with carbs. The same holds true for “Zero grams of trans fat,” which the FDA allows for products containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving – so eating more than one serving in a sitting can mean you're taking in one whole gram of trans fat!
According to the director of the FDA's Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, Douglas Balentine, consumers rely a lot on food labels when making healthy purchase decisions. They only spend three to five seconds glancing over a label and don't spend the time to read through all the nutrient facts. It's likely they're relying mostly on the nutritional claims, like “low-fat” and “healthy.”
The FDA realizes how companies might be using these claims as a loophole to market their products as healthier than they really are, which betrays consumers' trust. The problem is that the FDA's guidelines allow for these claims – and that's what the FDA wants your help with. They want to formulate stricter guidelines, and want you to help define them so that companies can't label something “healthy” that you wouldn't call healthy.
But Sharon Zarabi, the director of the bariatric program at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital, disagrees. She believes that food labels are detracting from the fact that the healthiest foods are natural nuts, fruits, and vegetables that come from the earth and not a factory conveyor belt. Dr. Jeffrey A. Neal, who spent time studying and teaching dentistry in Israel and now is a practicing dentist in Richmond, Virginia, agrees. He says that “fat-free” potato chips and “fat-free” ice cream are still loaded with unhealthy amounts of carbs, which are bad for both your overall health and teeth.
Help make sure you're not getting tricked by misleading food labels by contributing to the FDA's new guidelines. But, you should strive to eat fresh produce instead of grabbing ready-made processed foods – those are healthier than any box with “Healthy” labels.