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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 15 2016

Top 8 Changes Coming to Nutrition Labels

By Mark Sisson
80 Comments

What Does the New FDA Nutrition Labels Mean for Consumers FinalAfter years of committees, debates, panels, “consensus-building” retreats, and literature reviews, the FDA has finalized the new nutrition label guidelines. Packaged food companies have two years to incorporate the new labels. At that point, anything in a package that humans eat must have labels that reflect these changes. You’re probably skeptical. I was. The FDA doesn’t have the strongest track record. But before we condemn the new labels sight unseen, let’s take a look at what’s actually changing and what the implications are.

1. Added sugars

“Carbohydrates” will now contain a subsection for “Added Sugars,” which includes all sugars that do not naturally occur in the food.

Adding “Added Sugars” is a great move. Natural sugars are different than added sugars because they come packaged with the nutritional elements that mitigate their damage. A blueberry contains glucose and fructose, yes, but also anthocyanins, fiber, and other micronutrients. It used to be that you’d have to guess where the sugar was coming from in a packaged food. You’d have to see where an added sugar source lay on the ingredients list and estimate its degree of contribution to the total. With the new label, you get actual numbers, no guessing.

2. Revised serving sizes

Serving sizes will reflect what people typically consume in a sitting.

Using realistic serving sizes is a no-brainer and I welcome it. Nobody drinks just half a bottle of Coke or scoops a neat half cup of salted caramel ice cream from the pint. The labels should reflect how people actually eat.

3. Added micronutrients

The food’s vitamin D and potassium contents are required to be displayed.

I also like the inclusion of vitamin D and potassium. They’re both important nutrients that most people are deficient in. Of course I’d like to have seen magnesium added or, heck, all the relevant micronutrients like manganese, zinc, chromium, choline, vitamin K2 (especially iodine, about which I can never seem to get accurate data), but this is better than nothing.

4. Removed micronutrients

Vitamin C and vitamin A are no longer required to be displayed.

If label space was a premium and it came down to potassium and vitamin D versus vitamin C and vitamin A, I’m happy the former pair won out. Otherwise, I would have included both. Vitamin C and vitamin A are important vitamins that people assume they’re eating enough of.

5. Actual quantities of micronutrients listed

Instead of only listing the vitamin or mineral content of a food as a percentage of the daily value, the new labels will also list the absolute amounts of those nutrients in milligrams or micrograms.

Getting absolute amounts of the micronutrients is huge. Not everyone eats the 2000 calorie diet the daily values are based on, reducing the utility of the “percent of daily value,” but “400 milligrams of potassium” applies to everyone equally.

6. Daily values updated

The daily values for fiber, sodium, and vitamin D have been updated to reflect new scientific consensus. Whereas 4 grams of fiber used to comprise 16% of your DV, it’s now 14%. Sodium DV was previously based on a 2400 mg daily limit; now it’s 2300 mg.

“Scientific consensus” can be iffy, but some of these changes appear for the better. Sodium limits have been tightened (unfortunate, given the mixed evidence for salt restriction), fiber recommendations increased (good, given what we know about the microbiome), and vitamin D recommendations increased (good, because most people could use more).

7. Increased prominence of “Calories” and “Servings Per Container”

“Calories per serving” is front and center, with a larger font and more bolding. “Servings Per Container” has a similarly elevated emphasis.

Calories are probably overemphasized. Everyone “knows” how important calories are for weight loss; further accentuation on the label may lead folks to ignore everything but them when making choices. That said, using realistic serving sizes does increase the utility of “calories per serving.”

Servings per container deserves the extra emphasis. It’s the reference point from which everything else on the label proceeds.

8. “Calories from fat” removed

The new label no longer lists the amount of calories derived from fat.

YES. Since fat is more calorically dense than other macronutrients and most people assume calories are the most important aspect of a food’s healthfulness, using calories to represent fat’s contribution paints fat as the bad guy. Eliminating the “calories from fat” encourages consumers to evaluate the food on its merits.

You know what? I’m really impressed. These are actually positive changes. But what would I add, had I supreme power?

ORAC

Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity; the antioxidant activity of a food. Higher is generally “better” and indicates the presence of polyphenols.

Added micronutrients

I’d include magnesium, manganese, iodine, chromium, choline, betaine, all the B-vitamins, vitamin K2, all the good stuff we talk about.

Added clarity

I’d specify which forms of vitamin A (beta-carotene, retinol, etc), omega-3 (ALA, DHA, EPA, etc), fiber (soluble, insoluble, fermentable, etc). I’d distinguish between synthetic and natural forms of the nutrients.

Sugar represented by “teaspoons”

In addition to using grams, using teaspoons would provide a strong visual for consumers.

But that’s in a perfect world. Being a producer of foods that require a label myself, I know how onerous and expensive it can be to expand the standard label to include more information.

Maybe in 10-15 years, we’ll have “living labels” with touch screens and augmented reality capabilities. Touch “Minerals” or “Vitamins” and the full breakdown pops up. Touch “Where I’m From” and get a video showing the production process. That will be very cool.

Hardened Primal veterans won’t see their lives or behavior change much directly from the new labels, but you’re not the main audience. What I foresee happening is the general population realizing they’ve been eating terribly (“How much sugar is in this low-fat yogurt?”). We’re already trending in that direction; these label changes indicate the broader shift. When people realize that, no, a third of a bottle of Coke isn’t the true serving size and yes, they have been regularly consuming 65 grams of added sugar when they pop the 20 ounce Coke at lunch, they’ll realize that the way most people eat is insane and maybe that guy in the office who eats his steak and greens lunch out in the sun and takes frequent walking breaks and lobbied to get standing workstations for everyone isn’t so crazy after all.

All in all, I don’t see any big drawbacks here. It’s mostly a positive shift.

Scoff all you want. Realize that you folks who know the magnesium content of each spinach varietal by heart, can rattle off the specific non-curcumin phytonutrients present in turmeric, and are able to place a single droplet of liquid on your tongue and divine its sugar content by weight with perfect accuracy are in the minority. Most people can use the information provided on the new labels. Most people will see their food choices improve.

That’s a good thing.

What do you think, folks? Are you for or against the new label changes?

Thanks for reading.

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80 thoughts on “Top 8 Changes Coming to Nutrition Labels”

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  1. This is a really great step in the right direction. Labeling “added sugar” and removing “calories from fat” are pretty spot on changes.

  2. I agree, Mark. Once people start getting a clearer, easily accessible picture of what’s actually in their food, I’m sure it’ll guide better food choices.

    1. And furthermore, that’ll guide the demand for healthier food products, so we may see a big shift in the kinds of foods that are commonly available.

    2. Going with a label-less diet is obviously ideal (and something a lot of us here do by eating whole foods), but this is great progress for many consumers.

    3. It’s about time some of these changes took effect. There’s been such a consensus across nutritional research about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption. So it’s only right that we all get a more accurate picture of how much of the stuff is added (to almost everything).

    4. The change to “total calories” instead of “calories per serving” is helpful, even though calories are not the bottom line–mainly because the kinds of calories you’re getting from packaged foods are typically the kind that DO have a negative effect on weight loss, etc. I don’t think twice about the calories in a home cooked primal meal, but I would like to clearly know the empty calorie damage I’m doing if I choose to make a packaged indulgence. It serves as another deterrent.

  3. I particularly like how certain weight loss programs that heavily use the information on nutrition labels to calculate their overall dietary value will be forced to restructure their platform as “consensus” builds that added sugars are far more of a problem than added fats.

    1. ..or, I should say, natural fats, whether added or already presents 😉

  4. Maybe I’m a pessimist but I don’t see most people being deterred from eating anything when they see how much sugar has been added.

    1. I sure do. How many “health foods” have tons of added sugar? Granola, cereal, and lots of prepared foods come to mind first. Its great for people who are making efforts to eat healthier but are still swimming in the mainstream.

    2. You’re not a pessimist, you’re a realist. I agree.

      When people are constantly subject to the same information presented in the same way they tend to tune it out. It just becomes noise.

      It’s why the anti-smoking and anti-drinking messages have become more graphic, louder and more pervasive over the years.

      Indeed, paleo/primal types have learned to tune out the barrage of anti-fat, pro-carb messages that have been thrown at them for decades. And a good thing, too.

  5. For foods that must be labeled (processed) this is a big improvement.

  6. I’d rather see them keep the “calories from fat”. It’s helpful if you’re looking to consume more fat rather than avoid it.

  7. I use cronometer(dot)com to keep track of my nutritional info. While I don’t use a lot of packaged foods, I try to keep my healthy fats to about 50%, and find it so easy to go over. I then know to eat a bit more protein. Not having fats on the label will make it a harder to figure.

    1. As I read the article, the usual fat breakdown (saturated, unsaturated, trans, etc.) will still be on the label. Only the entry “calories from fat” will be removed.

  8. I’d also like to have seen the “how much activity it would take to burn this off” next to the teaspoons of sugar it contains. People might think twice (assuming they actually READ labels) about that over-sugared yogurt or soda…or maybe they just wouldn’t consume it so often.

    As far as this whole label thing making a huge sea-change within the general populace diet, I wouldn’t hold my breath–people are still far too busy feeding their tongue in order to keep hitting those reward centers in the brain. Those who honestly care about themselves are already eating better, and those who aren’t usually don’t make the change until cancer comes knocking at the door.

    The clientele at my health food store has easily tripled over the last year from cancer patients (and survivors) who finally got the word on reading food labels, scrutinizing the ingredients, and seeking out sources for cleaner foods no matter what the cost–I think they finally figure out at this point that the money they’ve been paying for cancer treatments could’ve better been spent on clean, healthy, nutritious food instead, and the whole cancer thing could’ve possibly been avoided.

    Why does it always take 20/20 hindsight when it comes to avoidable health issues?

    1. Although the absolute amount of energy in a food is a known quantity (i.e., kilocalories/joules), the amount of work (read: exercise/activity) needed to use that energy will vary according to individual factors, such as size, metabolism, type of exercise, etc., so it isn’t really feasible to provide activity information.

  9. Grok-world doesn’t eat food with labels, right?

    Much of the rest of humanity doesn’t think about food chemistry much.

    But there is a precious middle group of modern consumers paying attention to their food and for whom this is a very big deal, so this is a good step in the right direction.

    More importantly, this is a VERY big deal in that the powers that be are slowly but surely dis-engaging from the spin machine that is big ag/big food.

  10. Who is responsible for the accuracy of the “nutrition labels”—the company selling the product or the FDA?

    Who is doing the testing to determine the amounts of the nutrients—the company itself, an independent testing lab, or the FDA?

    1. Seeking to answer the questions I posed, here’s what I’ve found:

      N33. Will FDA analyze my products and send me a report to use for my nutrition label?

      Answer: No. FDA does not have the resources to analyze products upon request. However, FDA will collect surveillance samples to monitor the accuracy of nutrition information. The manufacturer, packer or distributor would be advised of any analytical results that are not in compliance. Additionally, depending on circumstances, FDA may initiate regulatory action.

      N34. Does FDA provide data base information to industry?

      Answer: No. FDA will review and accept industry data bases which remain the property of the organization that developed and submitted the data.

      N35. Can FDA recommend an analytical laboratory and must a laboratory be approved to perform nutrient analysis?

      Answer: FDA does not approve, and is not in a position to endorse or recommend, specific laboratories. Assistance may be available through the following sources: trade and professional associations, trade publications, colleges and universities, and by looking in local phone books under testing or analytical laboratories. For compliance purposes for nutrient analysis, FDA uses appropriate methods published by the Association of Analytical Chemists (AOAC) in Official Methods of Analysis of the AOAC International (the most current edition unless otherwise stated in the CFR) or other methods as needed. You may wish to ascertain if the laboratory is familiar with these methodologies when selecting a laboratory.

      N36. How many samples must be analyzed to determine the nutrient levels for a product?

      Answer: The number of samples to analyze for each nutrient is determined by the variability of each nutrient in a food. Fewer analytical samples are generally required for nutrients that are less variable. The variables that affect nutrient levels should be determined, and a sampling plan should be developed to encompass these variables.

      N37. Is there a problem with using ingredient composition data bases to calculate the values for nutrition labeling?

      Answer: If manufacturers choose to use ingredient data bases, they should be assured of the accuracy of the databases and validate the resulting calculations by comparing them with values for the same foods obtained from laboratory analyses. Manufacturers are responsible for the accuracy of the nutrition labeling values on their products. Although FDA specifies the laboratory methods that will be used to evaluate the accuracy of the labeled products, FDA does not specify acceptable sources for the labeled values.

      [from http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/labelingnutrition/ucm064894.htm ]

  11. In general, I’m for the label changes, but I don’t foresee that it will make much of a difference. Those of us who are at least 80/20 Paleo don’t buy many things that require scrutinizing a label to see how much unwholesome crap is contained in the product. Conversely, people who don’t care about their health or weight or who think their doctor can fix whatever goes wrong with them won’t bother reading the new labels for the same reasons they never read the old ones. Just possibly the people who are on the cusp of wanting to change their diet/lifestyle will benefit, but I don’t foresee any mass health and fitness changes coming about as a result.

  12. I’d like to think the initial pressure to change the labels came from the Paleosphere…Taubes, Sisson, Sally Fallon, Robb Wolf, Denise Minger, Jaminet, Cate Shanahan and several others. I think this is a big deal. I actually can hardly believe they made any changes. Small miracles indeed!

  13. I like knowing how many of the calories come from fat. When I’m buying something like sour cream or heavy cream, the higher the better.

    1. A gram of carbohydrate and a gram of protein each contain 4 calories while a gram of fat contains 9 calories. If you have sour cream that has 2.5 grams of fat per tablespoon, that would be about 22 calories from fat. You can also just compare the grams of fat each item contains rather than calculating the calories.

  14. Very informative article, thanks. I like your add-ons Mark, and as someone who reads a ton of wellness-related material you are a leader in the field and I’d definitely vote for you to be bestowed “supreme power” LOL.

  15. As a WIC Nutritionist I have had to teach my participant’s how to read a food label. Do they continue? I hope so, but going to the grocery and looking at every label would take you hours to get through the store.

    Have usually zeroed in on servings per container and the amount of sugar. With more than 50 names used for sugar in ingredient lists. A product having numerous types of sugar makes the individual sugars fall down further in the ingredient list. The current one is a challenge to decipher. I have told my participant’s that if it is in the top three ingredients it is a high sugar food, but that manufacturer’s are smart so they use different sugars so they are not in the top three. And I give them a crossword puzzle with many of the names of sugar to get it familiar.

    So I agree that these changes will be helpful to those who do read a label.

    @Adam
    It is my understanding that the manufacturers are responsible for the accuracy of the nutrition labels.

    Note:
    Starting in July I will be using a new nutrition education tool of a newsletter about grocery store setup and how the store design makes them go further for the whole foods they want, so they have to peruse the stuffed store shelves of processed foods.

    1. I am just mystified that people aren’t interested in what they are eating. People really don’t know what a high sugar food is?

    2. When reviewing your diet, choosing the things you want to keep, or looking for healthier options, grab a coffee and hit the net, with a notepad handy. 🙂

      Don’t read the labels in the store when making a plan, that’s time-consuming and confusing – look them up online, in the UK supermarkets usually have full nutritional info for every product, and manufacturers do for branded products. That way you can keep similar things in tabs (instead of juggling them in the aisle, or in your shopping trolley) and compare the differences across manufacturers.

      If some info you want isn’t on the site, take a few minutes to fire out some e-mails, most stores & manufacturers are only too happy to fill in any gaps in data. 🙂

      1. Only will work for those who have internet access. There are a lot who don’t. The Library and café shops see a lot of internet business but the customers don’t get that much time to look up food nutrition labels.

  16. I thought I was the only one who could do this

    “…are able to place a single droplet of liquid on your tongue and divine its sugar content by weight with perfect accuracy are in the minority.”

    I am happy to know there are others out there like me, we should probably start a club 😉

    Love it Mark! Thanks! and I’m happy to see the FDA do something good. As a (primal) RD student, its refreshing <3

  17. What is this?

    Are you justifying the “nutrition” facts labels???

    Are you happy with those “changes” to the useless labels ???

    Health aware people look for INGREDIENTS only. Period.

    If you know that those labels were created to hide toxins in foods: so why are you happy with those changes?

    If you don’t know: so don’t talk about natural wellness again. Go write articles for pharmaceuticals.

    1. This post is so mean-spirited it actually made me laugh. Reminds me of a story.

      My sister said years ago she was in a health food store. She saw a guy that was kind of cute and smiled at him. He turned to her with a box of something in his hand, and started yelling “POISON!!! NOTHING BUT POISON!!!”. She then quickly moved on to the next aisle.

      I’ll move on to the next post.

    2. Certainly Mark doesn’t need defending as a shill for the food industry; one need only look at his other posts.

      As a concrete example of the utility of the improved labeling — even for people eating a largely whole foods diet — consider the added sugar labeling. Let’s say there are two brands of yogurt, each with 10 grams of total sugar. If one has 8 grams of added sugar and 2 grams of lactose, that would probably be a better choice for someone with lactose sensitivity than the other tub, if it contained only 2 grams of added sugar but 8 grams of lactose. While it would obviously be better to have an option with zero added sugar, one doesn’t always have the perfect option available and tough choices have to be made. Over time, slightly better food decisions add up.

    3. What kind of troll are you? Where did you come from? Do you suffer from paranoia and ego problems?

      I eat 90% real foods. But I like seeing what options there are with dairy products and the relatively few processed foods that I eat.

      Food labels created to “hide toxins?” WTF are you taking? Wouldn’t NO label be better at hiding toxins? Labels were created by what people love to hate: government. The food labels to date have been helpful to millions of people, and these are great improvements. If one chooses to not read labels, it’s not my loss, nor a reason to be rid of them.

      And your last last statement is beyond absurd. No response possible to someone who is obviously delusional..

      I hope you get help soon.

  18. So a pint of Ben and Jerry’s will FINALLY be labeled a single serving? Sounds about right to me. If I’m going to splurge, I’m going all in.

  19. If food manufacturers really wanted to, they could provide all the information that His Benevolence, Grand Poobah Mark Sisson would like to see. Have a scan-able QR code or something similar on the label that takes you to the full nutritional content of a given food. At least that way anyone with a smartphone could pull up everything.

  20. That’s harsh. Most of us who are “health aware” got that way step-by-step from starting out by reading labels, and websites like this. Maybe you were born on a hippie commune where you grew your own organic vegetables. I was raised on Cap’n Crunch and Wonder bread. The labels were very useful to me years ago in my journey, even as flawed as they were. Maybe come down off that high horse just a bit.

  21. Great survey of the coming changes, Mark! Thanks for the handy resource to pass along.

    I welcome the changes for the most part, but love your idea of using a teaspoon measure for sugar. Most people just don’t register “grams,” I find, but absolutely get what it means to consume 20 teaspoons of sugar (or more) in a serving!

  22. It would be most awesome if the FDA would banish the sale of 95% of the items found in grocery stores. Donate them to middle eastern terrorist nations so that they become chronically sick and diseased. Also while we’re living in a totalitarian society, plow under all the mono-crops (corn, soy, wheat) and replace with beautiful grass and herds of cattle and sheep.

  23. Long overdue, I wonder how long in the making? As much as I agree with your thoughts, I can’t quiet the gut feeling of wondering how much of a thwart it may be, this new labeling. If labeling GMO’s were to be so expensive a change, as I often have read that claim, looks like the labeling committee dodged that one.

    So on that note…….GMO’s would have been preferred for the masses who’ve been brain washed by gingham checked tablecloths, healthy looking people, “farm fresh” foods being p-assed, adds!

    I well understand seeing the good in all and the potent imprint it makes on a cellular level, I also choose to see the truth. Till then, I continue to go to the yak farmer in NJ, The Amish farmer for camel milk…………………

    1. Government works slowly. It took 30+ years before changes came to the WIC Program food package so vegetables and fruits were a part of it. Now we get it evaluated every 10 years by the IOM.

      This is a good change as Mark said. Baby steps are needed and this gives opportunity to have conversations.

  24. This is good stuff. Yeah, they probably had to do a lot to overcome the folks who don’t “believe” this science, and a few of the changes (or lack thereof) are probably to placate those people. But this is a positive change.

  25. I’m pretty excited about these changes. They won’t affect me much on a personal level, but they will be easier for the general shopper to understand. I can’t believe the sugar industry wasn’t able to stop the ‘added sugar’ designation–that’s HUGE! And the switch to realistic serving sizes should be a ‘come to Jesus’ moment for a lot of people. Now where’s my 750mL single-serve grape-based beverage??? ; )

  26. I think the “added sugar” feature is the most important. I myself will rationalize eating something like a teriyaki meatball because surely, the majority of the sugar content must be from the pineapple,and not from added sugar!

  27. Not sure whether manufacturers can get around the added sugar rule. Eg
    Beans and molasses in tomato sauce. Is molases an added sugar?

    Would have liked to see if a product had any GMO listed. Also list the the source of fat, rather than saying vegetable oil, tell us if it is soy, cottonseed etc.

  28. Good article. Little victories help, but I wish labels would also reveal the presence of GMOs and amounts of added phosphates which is becoming a problem.

  29. Most package food is not nutrient-dense, nor does it have a high amount of antioxidants. Therefore, adding ORAC and micronutrients to food labels may not be worth the time. Ultimately, there will be a lot of zeros on the packages. Instead, we need to encourage people to stay away from packaged foods and only consume whole foods with one or two ingredients at the most. Whole foods are the most nutrient-dense foods, particularly green leafy veggies and salmon.

  30. Labeling per se is the problem, not what the label says.

    Don’t we want the government OUT of giving health advice? Isn’t this how the whole bad nutrition thing started in the first place? But, wait!, I hear you say, we don’t mind the state getting involved as long as it’s giving OUR version of good advice. You can surely see where that idea has lead us: to a slippery slope of warring lobbyists using political pull to grind their own particular axe.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t really lay my finger on the clause in the constitution that empowers the Feds to require me to label my food. But I’m a libertarian and it was quite a revelation to me that so many in the primal/paleo mindspace are quite happy with big government as long as it’s their version of big government.

    I can make up my own mind, do my own research. And I’m not arrogant enough to believe that it’s my right to enforce rational standards on my less educated fellow citizens.

    No labels! Put it on your t-shirt.

    1. Labels give the consumer freedom, label all nutrients without prejudice (no traffic light nonsense of emphasising fat or sugar as worse than anything) and the consumer can know what they’re buying. Labelling was only brought in because of food adulteration, some of which was spectacularly criminal and abusive, in the past.

      1. Regulation gives us freedom? Well, that’s an interesting suggestion. I would have thought freedom exists only in the absence of regulation.

        As I said, most people don’t mind big government as long as it’s their version of big government. Mark tips his hat to this, “But what would I add, had I supreme power?”. Now, I’m not suggesting Mark has any pretensions to be a dictator but he expresses a sentiment that most people have a weakness for: the desire to have their particular views foisted upon others.

        The real test of this, of course, is what happens in a few years time when the Feds decide that the anti-sugar message has gone too far and the labeling requirements should contain a more stringent warning against fat.

        Food labeling is just a small part of the whole state apparatus that is focused on education and food activism. You want to “educated” by the state? How’s that worked out in the past? Bloomberg tried his hand at several food regulation “initiatives” while mayor of NYC. You want the state enforcing its own food views via punitive taxes and bans? Philadelphia has just introduced a soda tax aimed at sugar. That’s a good idea because we all know what a problem sugar is, right? How about a saturated fat tax? It’s coming. Good idea? That’s what you eventually get if you give the state the power to “inform and educate”.

        Mark runs an excellent and informative site. It’s not mandatory for me to read his views and I’m not required to fund him through taxes. And there are thousands of similar sites and databases where I can get good, freely-offered information. Yet some people still feel a need for the dead hand of the state.

        If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

        1. There’s surely a rational middle ground between the government dictating every last bite you eat, and sellers having no requirement to honestly list their ingredients.

          I read Mark’s site and pay attention to what he says because he scrupulously links to the research behind his ideas – many of these links are to clinical trials published by the National Institutes of Health, a body which is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

          Remove any element of taxpayer funded material from this site and pare down Mark’s posts to links provided only by private commercial food manufacturers and sellers, and I would find it far harder to take seriously.

    2. Not having a label is not freedom. Freedom is being able to buy whatever you want without having it taxed because the government considers it a bad thing a la soda taxes. I think you are confused.

      We need labels so that we know the largely crap that is going into our food. I would NEVER eat something without knowing what’s in it. That’s true freedom.

      Freedom is the right to choose, and we can only made educated decisions based on accurate information.

      1. You have a convenient and contradictory definition of freedom.

        Your logic is: It IS a denial of freedom to have to pay a food tax that is designed to change your behavior but it’s NOT a denial of freedom to have to pay a tax (to fund the FDA) and pay compliance costs for regulations that also seek to change your behavior?

        Would you buy a product that didn’t have a label on it telling you what was in it? Probably not. You’d go to the next shelf to find what you’re looking for.

        Now that’s what I call freedom.

        1. Who enforces standards?

          What’s to prevent labelling redolent of the old days of tobacco marketing, where cigarettes were promoted as aids to health, even medicinal?

          Outrageous claims can be made about the wonders of foods packed with sugar (for example) which DOES give a temporary feeling of well-being, and is very hard for some people to quit. Especially because of the flu-like symptoms that accompany cutting down on sugars when they’ve previously formed a large part of someone’s intake.

          More likely, fillers & GMO-derived ingredients would be added while the label claims “100% farm-grown, natural & wholesome,” or “Wheat free” (insert cute little wheat symbol with big red line through etc) when the product actually contains large amounts of rye gluten for its superior texture, IF there’s no mandatory labelling of what’s really in something, and no mandatory disclosure of GMOs.

          Mandatory meaning, govenrment-enforced and taxpayer funded. Manufacturers do NOT have an illustrious history of putting the consumer first, nor of being honest in the absence of compulsion.

          Arguably, the whole set of government guidelines that have caused so many problems are a direct result of manufacturers and growers pressuring the state to give biased information about the desirability of a grain- and starch-heavy diet. It’s usually industry-funded panels and “experts” who are quickest to attack any diet that deviates from that model.

          In an ideal world, society will grow out of the need for any form of government and regulation, for sure.

          But I don’t think that day is yet here, I don’t trust manufacturers & stores based on real-world examples of misleading or downright dishonest marketing, and since government does exist and we must all live in the world as it currently stands, I can think of far worse wastes of taxes than making manufacturers be honest about their products.

        2. Do you live in the United States? Are you over 40? Heck over 30 and have read a history book would suffice.

          That is NOT what the history of the FDA is at all “regulations that also seek to change your behavior.” One quick read into a history book about food standards in the early 1900s is all you need to know to understand why the FDA exists. I am not going to pretend that much hasn’t been corrected by Big Agra and Big Pharma, but given the history of this country’s relationship with food, no I’m not trusting corporations with some blind faith that they are telling me the truth.

          I would buy a product without a label on it. It’s called produce because I know where that came from. It came from the earth. If I am buying something that was manufactured and processed in a plant, heck yeah, you better tell me what’s in it or I’m not buying it.

        3. “Arguably, the whole set of government guidelines that have caused so many problems are a direct result of manufacturers and growers pressuring the state to give biased information about the desirability of a grain- and starch-heavy diet. It’s usually industry-funded panels and “experts” who are quickest to attack any diet that deviates from that model.”

          And yet you argue for more government guidelines! As if the state was somehow your champion, and yet you know full-well that the state is open to every kind of influence and agenda going as long as you have the lobbyists to support your argument. You’ve had decades of officially-sanctioned advice. Where has that got you?

          Apply those principles to other aspects of life. You want the state demanding standards in speech, for instance? No, your argument–I hope–would be that you hear many things you don’t agree with but you’d rather make up your own mind, right? Yet the state does not enforce any guidelines as to what constitutes a good idea, or perhaps you think they should. What if books and TV had a similar labeling scheme? You’d soon see the danger in that.

          The bottom line is that you hope the state guidelines conform to your version of the truth. But what if they don’t, as they have done for many years?

          If you don’t demand the state get out of food as we demand it stays out of everything else from speech to personal relationships then you’re missing the point entirely. You seem to think that state-sanctioned food advice comes with zero cost. Ask yourself, if there had never been an official version of what constitutes good food, would the cause of nutrition and health been advanced or retarded? And if you say it has been advanced then why doesn’t that apply to every other aspect of your life?

          If there were no official standards bodies, you couldn’t have influence exerted upon those bodies. By advocating for such bodies, you are, in fact, perpetuating the same system that has got us to where we are now.

  31. Great to see these changes. Is there an easy site I can work with that allows me to make up my own ‘nutrition label’ for the things I create at home? It would be great to have an ‘apples for apples’ comparison.

    Thanks!

  32. I have somewhat mixed feelings about the revised serving sizes in that the current serving size guidelines have helped me (finally) develop a feel for human-appropriate portions.

    If we inflate serving sizes, that runs the risk of giving tacit approval for eating more, but I get that the sticker shock of the full brunt of that 20 oz bottle of soda is a point worth making.

    1. And the funny thing is the 20 oz bottle of soda is one serving size so that wouldn’t change anything.

  33. I just looked up the keyword “GMO” in the page: not present, except in comments.
    I guess Monsanto and the “big guys” are lobbying nicely and successfully.
    But you Mark surely understand the relevance of GMO foods for nutrition, right?

    1. Here’s a hint:
      1. Understand what foods contain ingredients that might have GMO.
      2. Assume it’s GMO unless it specifically says it’s not.
      Easy.

  34. I think this is an improvement…not perfect, but a step in the right direction. If you’re eating whole food, you shouldn’t need to be reading many labels. But the added sugar thing is definitely helpful. And the whole calories thing. I really don’t give calories a thought. But hopefully it will make people more aware of the damage some of their food choices can cause. In the meantime, I’ll keep eating my veggies, pastured eggs and grass fed meat and not worry about labels:)

  35. LOVE the new added sugar listing, and the actual amount of micronutrients. I’ve been trying to get more of a lot now since I’m pregnant so the daily percentages listed aren’t as useful to me. This is good stuff.

  36. I actually look at Vitamin C when I have a cold…so I’d rather it stayed there. But I guess I can look it up online.

    >Nobody drinks just half a bottle of Coke or scoops a neat half cup of salted caramel ice cream from the pint. The labels should reflect how people actually eat.

    I actually DO drink half a bottle of coke (well, mixed with bourbon) and I never eat a whole pint. But I think a general move towards labels that match makes sense (1 candy bar = 1 serving, for example).

  37. I also heard that foods containing beta carotene can now be labeled as containing vitamin A. I’d consider that a major downside, given the ubiquity of limited conversion of carotene to vitamin A and the importance of vitamin A in the diet, especially for women during pregnancy.

  38. I honestly don’t think this is going to change much. Aren’t we supposed to be promoting people eat more things that don’t require labels?

    As an avid now reformed calorie counter in the 1990s, my labels guide of today is “can I pronounce what is in the ingredients”, “are the ingredients simple enough for me to understand; ie, potatoes, sea salt, coconut oil”, “does it have things in it that I don’t eat; ie, canola oil, HFC, etc.”, and “is some form of sugar one of the first 3 ingredients (as labels list ingredients in order of composition)”? The only exception to this is I have paid more attention to carbohydrates in a packaged food, but honestly you know when a food is going to be higher in carbs-starchy and/or sweet. Now with things like condiments it may not be that cut and dry but I say if buying those things from a regular grocer proceed at your own risk.

    From there I make the decision on whether to consider it, but honestly a real food source is always better. I’m not knocking this breakdown of vitamins, minerals, and the likes, but to the average person it means nothing.

  39. This is still red herring. I’m more interested in the truth in ingredients than any of these changes. People are still going to fixate on these numbers and not pay more attention to what make up the actual food. Better yet, eat natural foods that doesn’t have ingredient list. As far as I know you need a science degree just to comprehend half of what the ingredients they put in packaged foods.

  40. I understand the “We shouldn’t be eating food with labels” idea, but even an avid cook probably doesn’t have time to make their own yoghurt, parmesan, Stilton, press their own coconut oil and olive oil, churn their own butter, fly overnight down to the southern hemisphere to make their own cocoa… then pop back up in time for sunrise, to milk their cows and hit their drying pans for sea salt.

    All these things can be adulterated and result in *improved* textures and “mouth feel” through the addition of ingredients like xanthan gum, MSG, aspartame, gelatine (for whose who avoid slaughterhouse products) or lab-created aromas for products like coconut oil.

    No additive that we try to avoid was ever added to make the taste, texture, or appearance of a food worse, so it’s common sense manufacturers will add them if the market accepts this, based on superficial factors.

    *Labels matter* – unless you physically dig, pluck, kill and milk every last bite that passes your lips, with no exceptions.

    This argument against labels reminds me of when celebs and politicians say they can easily live on $1 or £1 a day and they trot out their canned pulses and bags of rice, forgetting that the salt, oils & fats, spices, and even cooking utensils they’d nead to make a liveable menu are all provided outside of that sum, along with any kind of beverage except tap water, and therefore represent an overhead expense that doesn’t fit into a pared-down budget. We don’t notice the everyday things like that… 🙂

  41. This is an interesting post. Although I got confused between “Calories per serving” and “Calories Per Container”. Are they similar? What’s the difference between the two?

    1. Multiple servings can make up one container. There can only be one container.

  42. It would be great if they were only able to include real nutrients on the labels and not fake nutrients added by fortification. Then the nutrients on most packaged and processed foods would be listed as zero.

  43. It’s easy, just stay away from products with Nutrition Labels on them! Buy pure products and educate people!

  44. This was an excellent article; I shared it with my clients in my most recent newsletter and on FB. I think that listing added sugars is a positive change. However, I am a little disappointed at the increased emphasis on calories when I’d rather focus on ingredients and nutritional quality.