The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way


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Nutrition Labels, continued (and a new take on “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”)

Branching off of my previous post, I recently discovered a news clip on Google + Sparks that discussed the nutrition labels companies are beginning to slap on their grocery products. While some products are using this already, (i.e. Kellogg and General Mills cereals,) it seems that there are a lot of ideas floating around but nothing set in stone yet.

Most people realize that package labels can be misleading. Will this nutrition info be misleading, too? As pointed out in the video, there are some definite advantages and important information pulled out front, but there is also equally important info left behind (like Trans Fat).

And the way that this information is presented is inconsistent and dependent on brand, as you can see in the examples shown in the video.

Maybe the next step for the FDA is to come up with a criteria that must be present on packaging, but with enough freedom so as to not limit the branding and design.

Another interesting bit mentioned in the clip was the Traffic Light labeling idea. It seems that the UK never went through with the idea, but perhaps it could be the easiest way to convey information to consumers. While you can always list numbers, adding a color code is a quick and simple way to add meaning to that number. Is X grams of sodium high or low? These are the standards that the FDA and other trusted organizations would have to standardize for labeling purposes.

For example:

Traffic light colour coding, as shown in the image above, tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.

  • red means high
  • amber means medium
  • green means low

In short, the more green lights, the healthier the choice.

“If you buy a food that has all or mostly green lights, you know straight away that it’s a healthier choice. An amber light means neither high nor low, so you can eat foods with all or mostly amber lights most of the time. But a red light means the food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugars and these are the foods we should cut down on. Try to eat these foods less often and in small amounts.”

From http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/food-labelling.aspx#Tr 

And, this just in, New York City has gone so far as to make it a law that fast food restaurants post their calorie information on menus. According to the Reuters article, the British Medical Journal report shows the results of the 2008 law to be promising. As of now, only one in six customers change their dietary habits due to the information, but there are plans to take the law to a national level.

In other news, McDonald’s is taking their own healthy initiatives a step further by creating a nutrition-focused mobile phone app and also requiring apples to be included in Happy Meals. These seem like positive changes for which I have no dispute, but I can see customers feeling less than appreciative of the unwarranted influence on their eating habits.

According to the article, “Although subject to variation depending on what’s ordered, the new meals will represent, on average, a 20% decrease in calories, the chain said.”

As for the app, it will make nutritional information more readily accessible for customers. For this, I see only benefits. It’s accessible if you want it to be. It’s not staring you in the face on the menu, and it’s not directly influencing what comes with your meal. I know I will be downloading.

See more of my favorite apps here.