America’s obesity rate, the alarming stats on heart disease and diabetes, and everyone’s increased focus on calories may all have the same starting point. A study released through the JAMA Internal Medicine exposed that in 1965, “a sugar-industry trade group paid Harvard scientists $6,500 (equal to almost 50k in today’s dollars) to downplay sugar’s role and instead caution consumers to avoid saturated fats” (Guthrie) The request was from the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), which is known as the Sugar Association today.
That’s not all the SRF has done. They have spent copious amounts of money (5.3 million alone in 2016) to inform “people who had never had a course in biochemistry… that sugar is what keeps every human being alive and with energy to face our daily problems” (Guthrie).
The information we’re receiving from this association is extremely misleading. They’re in the business to make money, at the expense of America’s health. Nutrition labels became a law in 1990, and although they weren’t perfect they were a good start. In 1990, the annual consumption of sugar the average American ate was up to more than 100 pounds. When just a mere 200 years earlier consumption was as little as 6 pounds of sugar per year.
We know sugar when we see it in desserts and soft drinks, but are we aware of how much added sugars are actually in them? Since nutrition labels became a thing, there was no specific label for added sugars, but thankfully, this is changing. Starting in July of 2018, food producers will be required to list added sugars both in grams and daily percentage value. Basically, we will better be able to see what sugar occurs naturally and how much sugar is added by the producer.
It makes sense as to why the food industry loves sugar. It can do it all. Sugar retains moisture, extends shelf life, and is an enhancer of texture when it comes to processed foods. It’s a one hit wonder! In order to keep their secrets and successful deceitfulness under the radar they have come up with many sneaky names, more than 60, that make the word sugar less recognizable. Some of these names include:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Rice Syrup
The Sugar Association trade group has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars just to ensure that your view of sugar is positive. The research they’ve had done has even ensured them a piece of paper that says sugar is “harmless when eaten in reasonable amounts” (Guthrie). In order to keep the sugar intake high, the research that was being put out was focused on excess calories and saturated fats- saying that these two things were the cause for the rise in chronic conditions. The Sugar Association claimed that “a calorie is just a calorie’ and if consumers were gaining weight that it was because they were eating too many calories and not too much sugar” (Guthrie).
The good news: Here is a look at the old food labels vs. the new food labels coming out in July 2018
2018 Nutrition Label:
The daily percentage values will be based upon a 2,000 calorie intake per day. I have never counted calories, so this doesn’t seem to be very helpful to me, but it is important to have a reference point as to how the nutrients are broken down in every specific item. There is also an update in the daily percentage values. For example, the chart below (Look at Serving Size Changes) has increased the number of calories per serving, but the serving size is less. When doing the math it’s easy to see that the new label has an increase of 10 calories in the whole pint. Some of the recommended values will be changing as well. For example sodium will be changing from 2,400mg/day to 2,300mg/day.
You know those snacks or drinks that have 2 servings, but you consume the whole thing in one sitting? Just as the diagram below suggests, the serving sizes will now be one per package/bottle even if there is one that is bigger than the other. Look at the “Packages Affects Servings” below for more detailed information.
On the label itself, Vitamin D and Potassium will now be required while Vitamins A and C will no longer be required. The reason for this change is because research has shown that Americans receive enough Vitamin C and A but not enough of Vitamin D and Potassium. They’re hoping that with this change consumers will be more aware and get more of the nutrients that have been shown to be lacking with research. Iron and Calcium will continue to be on the required nutrients list alongside Vitamin D and Potassium.
If you don’t pay much attention to nutritional labels, I would suggest starting to pay attention to them now. Whether or not you count calories, watch how much sugar you intake, or pay attention to how much nutrients you’re getting, what’s important is that you’re aware of how the labels work. Because companies now have to label how much sugar is added to their products, this will put pressure on the companies to rethink and reformulate. The more aware consumers are of what they’re putting into their bodies the better health they will have. Too much sugar can cause havoc on our bodies. There are over 700,000 packaged foods sold around the United States, and added sugars will be labeled on all of them. I think that is a win for the people and for the companies that truly care about your health and make amazing products without all of the added sugar because they have nothing to worry about, but maybe an increase in sales.
With the change of requirements in nutrients and daily percentage value there are noticeable differences as well. Daily recommended value of sodium has decreased, and more calories will be in each serving. There has been a push for American’s to become healthier, and I think the new labels are a start. Make sure to do your own research as well, and make sure that you’re paying attention to the brands and types of food you’re buying. That is just as important, if not more important as reading the nutrition labels and being aware of what you’re feeding your body. What you put in is what you’ll get out, so make sure it is healthy.
https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm, https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm, https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm, http://policymatters.illinois.edu/fda-proposes-new-nutrition-facts-label/
Guthrie, Catherine. “Sweet News.” Experience L!fe Jan. 2017: 40-43. Print.
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