Texas Tech University

New Nutrition Labels Positive, But Don’t Expect Major Behavioral Changes

Heidi Toth

May 20, 2016

One major change is about serving size; manufacturers will be required to base serving size on what people are actually eating.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday it has finalized new nutrition facts labels for packaged foods. The new labels are intended to reflect new scientific labels, such as the connection between a person's diet and chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes or heart disease. The labels will include highlighting the calorie count and serving size and added sugar and will better explain what “percent daily value” means. Manufacturers will need to use the new labels by July 26, 2018.

One major change is about serving size; manufacturers will be required to base serving size on what people are actually eating, meaning the impossible-to-hit half cup serving of ice cream is no more. The serving size for soda will change from 8 ounces to 12 ounces, or a standard can.

Martin Binks, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University, is available to talk about the changes. Binks leads the Behavioral Medicine & Translational Research Lab and is director of the Nutrition & Metabolic Health Initiative at Texas Tech. His expertise spans a breadth of clinical and translational research topics and issues in public health related to obesity including: behavioral, pharmacologic and surgical obesity treatment; barriers to treatment adherence (nutrition and physical activity); obesity and comorbidities; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); pain and sleep in obesity; sickle cell disease; health disparities; and neuroscience related to obesity.

Allison Childress is a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutritional sciences instructor at Texas Tech. She is certified in sports dietetics and by The Cooper Institute as a personal trainer. Childress has worked as a clinical and outpatient dietitian specializing in cardiac, pediatric, geriatric and sports nutrition in addition to weight management counseling. She is studying food addiction.

Experts

Martin Binks, associate professor of nutritional sciences, (919) 485-9215 or m.binks@ttu.edu
Allison Childress, registered dietitian and nutritional sciences instructor, (806) 773-7800 or allison.childress@ttu.edu

Martin Binks
Martin Binks

Martin Binks

  • “The labels are an improvement over the previous labels, which were difficult for the average person to comprehend, but really only minor improvement.”
  • “Unfortunately, it is ‘front of package' labeling that draws average consumer's attention. Only those predisposed to already being ‘diet conscious' read the label. So until we achieve helpful and non-misleading ‘front of package' labeling, this will likely have little to no meaningful impact on population behavior.”
  • “Positives: Highlighting somewhat more realistic serving sizes is an improvement for consumer readability as is the highlighting of calories to make them more apparent. Also the inclusion of actual nutrient amounts is very useful for those inclined to read the label.”
  • “Negatives: With regard to the highlighting of ‘added sugar' – I am concerned about the highlighting of any single nutrient over others, in this case added sugar. It seems to give it an elevated importance reminiscent of the elevated importance of dietary fat in the ‘80s. It plays into the pop culture of ‘sugar is poison,' which is really not any more factual than blaming fat for all our ills in previous decades. The overall dietary pattern would be a better message than singling out any single nutrient.”
Allison Childress
Allison Childress

Allison Childress

  • “As a registered dietitian who has spent countless hours educating students, patients and clients on label reading, I am very excited about the new label update for a number of reasons.”
  • “The larger font for the number of calories is user-friendly, especially for those who may have limited eyesight or are simply in a hurry to make a decision regarding calories.”
  • “Serving size is addressed in three ways. Many people struggle with portion control and determining portion size from the label. This change may help alleviate that.”
  • “Finally, the addition of “Added Sugars” is positive. Sugar and carbs are often demonized unnecessarily. Now consumers can differentiate between naturally occurring sugars, such as fructose in fruit, and sugars that have been added by manufacturers.”

 


 

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