Scott: Living on her own for the first time, college student Jennifer Beall says she always looks at the nutrition labels when shopping for food at the grocery store.
Jennifer Beall: When I was in middle school, in my consumer ed class, they taught us how to read it.
Scott: But the Food and Drug Administration knows, after twenty years, it is time to give those labels a makeover. After asking thousands of consumers, the agency found people are often confused by the labels – particularly when it comes to how many calories are inside. For example, on the label for this bag of chips, it says 140 calories. But that is per serving, not per bag. If you look at how many servings are in this bag, there are actually three-and-a-half, meaning if you eat this whole bag, that is 490 calories. And most consumers don’t pay attention to that part.
And it can be that easy to eat more than you intended. Even this muffin label says 170 calories per serving. But a serving size is half a muffin.
Beall says some labels just plain don’t make sense.
Jennifer: I got pickles and it said, like, a fourth of a pickle was the serving size.
Scott: The FDA has some proposals to simplify things. For example, calculating snack-sized bags as just one big serving, since most people eat them that way. Or using a two column system. One column with calories per serving, the other for the total package. They are also considering making the font size larger for the numbers that show calories, and even removing the ‘calories from fat’ section altogether, which also tends to confuse buyers.
Experts say keeping it simple is the way to go.
Melanie Desapri: I agree with that. I think that they get very confused by the percent calories from fat, so I think just the total calories would be beneficial for them.
Scott: So, the next step? To get input from the public and try the changes in stores.
Scott Evans, Channel One News.
- Why does the government want to give food labels a makeover?
- What is confusing about the calorie counts for many foods?
- How is the FDA trying to simplify the calorie count confusion?
- What is the FDA’s implementation plan for the changes?
- Why are food labels important?
- What information on the food label is most important to consumers?