Here Comes the FDA with New Nutritional Labels

Categories: Controversy

Pete Kane
If you find yourself perversely hate-reading the side of cereal boxes to feel good about what you're not putting in your body, or if you genuinely use them as guideposts when comparison shopping, there's good news for you. The FDA is revamping its labeling system to reflect contemporary food science.

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Perhaps the most important change will be serving size adjustment. Some products claim two or three servings when most people eat the entire thing at once. (Ahem, peanut butter-filled pretzels.) "Total calories" will become more prominent but, in keeping with the understanding that refined sugars and starches are more fattening than fat, "calories from fat" may disappear. Some information may move to the front of the packaging, whole wheat as a percentage of total wheat may be listed, and the quantity of added sugars will as well. And, in a stunning loss for the metric system, quantities will be measured in teaspoons (which the average American can visualize) rather than grams (which remain foreign and mysterious).

The last time the guidelines got a full overhaul was 20 years ago -- although trans fats were separated out in 2006 -- and in that time, obesity has become a major public health crisis. The fattest state then, perennial winner Mississippi, was still skinnier than the slimmest state today, Colorado. A First Lady whose signature concern is childhood nutrition no doubt played a role in this, but did you know the NSA has cutesy animal figures who explain the surveillance state to kids? Too bad the Agriculture Department couldn't come up with, oh, an anthropomorphic otter as a companion to Cy and Cyndi the Cyber Twins. That's not entirely a cynical proposition, because without it, the government is still forfeiting this game to Tony the Tiger.

And of course, it's a testament to the power of the alcoholic beverage lobby that its products are still completely exempt. Vodka isn't really calorie-free.

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