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How to Improve Food Labels

Updated on March 28, 2016

Since I first started writing about food safety and food labels, I must admit we have come a long way. Yet, we still have allot of room for improvement. Information about what really is in our food here in the United States needs to be improved. I admire the companies who are answering the public outcry and providing the information voluntarily. I admire the investigative reports showcasing how American prepared foods are different from our European friends but we need to do more. Join us as we explore the best of best in food labeling and where we can improve. I want to hear your thoughts and learn what is important to you. Stay tune and participate in our survey and share your thoughts.

Number of Teaspoons of Sugar in a Glass of Soda Pop

Visual Showcasing the Number of Teaspoons of Sugar in a Glass of Soda Pop = 16
Visual Showcasing the Number of Teaspoons of Sugar in a Glass of Soda Pop = 16 | Source

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Did you know the number of teaspoons in your soda pop?

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Food Label Example - Yoplait

Why Are Food Labels So Important?

The consumer is driven by commercials and the packaging. The food label is really the only item that objectively provides the information needed to make healthy decisions. We all know soda pop has sugar but if we listed the number of calories on the jar in point size 6, can we really make a good dietary decision? If we list the number of calories on the front in larger lettering does this really help? What if manufacturers were required to show the number of teaspoons of sugar in one can?

The number of teaspoons tells the consumer precisely what ingredients are contained in this can. This is a direct comparison and tells me the consumer if I put 6 teaspoons of sugar in my tea, the results are the same.

What would you guess for a glass of soda pop? What do you put in your glass of ice tea? One teaspoon? Three? Six? Sixteen?

I have read two answers - 10 teaspoons and sixteen. While numbers vary and numbers do count, the real concern here is this amount is unreasonable and yet we as the consumer do not have the information front and center to make knowledgeable choices.

Would you ever consider adding sixteen teaspoons of sugar to your glass of tea? Why? Or Why not? Did you know your soda pop, one common glass size has 16 teaspoons?

Real Question About Food Labels

My real question is simply this:

Must we become a dietitian to eat properly?

Traffic Signs and Universal Language

For years we have developed a language of symbols for obeying traffic. Driving a car has some inherent dangers and yet the food that we put in our body has limited visual guides. Shame on the manufacturers, shame on the consumer for not demanding more.

Sugar in Our Beverages Comparison Chart

colorful diagram of the number of teaspoons of sugar in various beverages - comparison chart
colorful diagram of the number of teaspoons of sugar in various beverages - comparison chart | Source
Source

#1 Nutrition

Nutrition labels are governed by the legislation here in the United States and while the labels provide the mandated information, this information is not enough to make an educated decision readily.

We do no have time in our busy careers, working often one-two jobs, job hunting, raising children, etc... to read the fine print on the labels.

The answer - better visual guides to offer a true comparison for families to make a healthy choice.

#2 Calories and Number of Servings in the Package

Food labels are mandated to list the calories. Sadly this is done but only halfheartedly, the calories per serving are often the large number and then you must multiply the calories by the number of servings in a bag.

I dare you, just care you, try to stop in a convenience store and buy a bag of chips or a snack that is one serving! It doesn't exist! And who can eat just 1/3 of a bag?

In our mobile society today, we don't carry picnic baskets and we don't partition the bags of foods into serving sizes. (On a side note, perhaps we should but the picnic basket as a traveling companion is a subject for another time).

Food Safety - Food Labels

Food labels using traffic colors to showcase the amount of sugar, salt, fat, etc..
Food labels using traffic colors to showcase the amount of sugar, salt, fat, etc.. | Source

Food Safety and Portion Size

colorful food label showcasing serving size fat, sodium with percentage DV
colorful food label showcasing serving size fat, sodium with percentage DV | Source

Serving Size

fine print of serving size on food label
fine print of serving size on food label | Source

Packaging Should Be in Portion Sizes

The packages that are "lunch" pack sizes I feel should be mandated at the convenient stores. I know the stores and the manufacturers want to make money and sell more but we are talking about more than money, we are talking about our health.

The health of our country is at stake and while I don't agree with the method of Bloomberg's ban on large soda drinks, I do see a need for real choices being mandated to be made available to the individual consumer.

#3 Country of Origin and Country of Distribution

We all know that chocolate and coffee are not readily grown here in the United States. The country of origin is pretty well known but I want both the country of origin and the country of distribution on the front of the label.

If the distributor is headquartered in the United States and all the administration and marketing are here in America, I have more respect for that product.

If the distributor has moved their headquarters overseas for tax purposes, I feel that I as the consumer should be advised of that right on the label.

As a tax paying citizen (sorry I had to go there - please forgive me), I NEED to know where my dollars are going. I cannot afford to support a food company who is avoiding federal taxes because their gain is my loss. For you see, I know how this works, if they are paying less taxes, the demand for tax dollars remains the same the supply for those savings must come from somewhere and it is my paycheck and my federal tax return.

I NEED to know financially where the product that I am purchasing where their headquarters is located for tax purposes. This is very important in my decision making process for all items but for food this should be mandatory.

Food is not a discretionary purchase. I must buy food for my family. Like millions of families in America, it is my largest expense outside of my mortgage. I need to know who is making money and if those profits help America's tax base

In the age of cities declaring bankruptcies and jobs being scarce, the information on the food label of who I am supporting and what country is receiving dividends is critical to an educated person.



Food Safety Label of Portion Sizes

portion size for sugar explained in colorful food label detail
portion size for sugar explained in colorful food label detail | Source

Share Your Thoughts and Experiences

Please share with us what is important to you when you are shopping for food. Does the country of distribution make sense to you? Do you look at the country of origin? Should food and finance be intricately weaved together on the food labels?

What influences your decision process on food purchases?

Comments

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    • 4FoodSafety profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      2 years ago from Fontana, WI

      Alphadogg16,

      You are absolutely correct about the "requirements" - I feel strongly if we as consumers voice our opinion the mega food companies will respond - it is or should be part of their self-governance. I see no reason for taxpayers to require their legislative powers to intercede if the corporations were compassionate for the health of the community.

      The new legislation delay made by lobbyists is shameful and I wish the consumers world-wide would revoke.

      I tout the companies such as Panera Bread who have complied, I am gravely sadden by the companies (the many companies I have advised) that have spent money on lobbying the delay of this much needed legislation.

      I look forward to the day when corporate giants act in a responsive manner to food labeling transparency.

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 

      3 years ago from Texas

      Very interesting read 4FoodSafety. However food labels can be and often are very misleading. Companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in there proprietary blend so many times people are not aware of everything that's in what they are drinking/eating. Voted up on your hub though.

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