For the first time in two decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing changes to nutrition labels to make it easier for the average consumer to understand what they’re eating.
March is National Nutrition Month®, when dietitians call attention to the importance of making informed decisions about the food we eat. We reached out to Karen Sudders, Clinical Oncology Dietitian at our hospital in Philadelphia, for her insight into possible changes to food labels.
“With the obesity epidemic in America, it’s crucial that our nation understands and cares about what they’re putting in their bodies,” says Sudders. “The proposed changes will help better define what’s going into the foods we eat.”
The new labels would include more visible calorie counts and modified serving sizes. Under the new guidelines, a 20-ounce bottle of soda would be considered one serving, instead of the current 2.5 servings per bottle.
A potentially controversial change is the addition of a separate line for added sugars, so consumers know if the sugar is natural or added during processing. “Sugars from fruit and dairy are very different than sugar found in soda and cookies. This will help us see exactly where our sugar is coming from,” says Sudders.
The new format could make choosing healthy foods easier for people who need it most, including those with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. For people with cancer, a healthy diet is especially important both during treatment and afterwards, when patients have to make healthy choices on their own.
“For patients recovering from surgery or in remission, fueling their bodies with foods that are high in vitamins, micronutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals, as well as the right balance between calorie and protein intake, is important. The proposed food label changes will help patients make healthier decisions,” says Sudders.
The proposed food label changes may also encourage food companies to improve ingredient quality. “Some food companies sneak in ingredients that we aren’t aware of. You think it’s healthy to pick a Greek yogurt, but there’s sugar added which adds a substantial amount of empty calories and minimal nutrients,” says Sudders. “These proposed changes are going to cause even the healthier food companies to take a step back and say, ‘What do we need to adjust?’”
You can voice your opinion on the proposed changes until June 2 before the FDA makes a final decision. If approved, food manufacturers likely will have two years to implement the changes.
Read about nutritional support during cancer treatment.