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Baby "label" arrives.

Weights: 3lbs., 8 oz. Height: 2". Date of Birth: January 6, 1993. Name: "Food Labeling; General Provisions; Nutrition Labeling; Label Format; Nutrient Content Claims; Health Claims; Ingredient Labeling; State and Local Requirements; and Exemptions; Final Rules."


Most of the 1,000-or-so pages of new labeling rules are good for consumers. There will be more information about what's in food and how it affects your health, tighter restrictions on deceptive claims, and more disclosures to explain honest claims. True, there are also some loopholes--tricks to watch out for and claims to ignore. But let's start with the nitty-gritty--the numbers that usually appear on the back of the package.

Servings are set by the FDA, rather than manufacturers. No more one-teaspoon servings of Land O' Lakes butter, when other companies use one tablespoon.

Loophole: Some serving sizes have been set too large or small. For example, the serving for fresh meat, poultry, and seafood is three ounces, cooked--less than what most people eat.

Meat and poultry labels can list stearic acid (a type of saturated fat) separately, even though it's included in the grams of saturated fat. It's too early to say that stearic acid is heart-healthy. Ignore it.

Loophole: Fresh meat, poultry, and seafood can list either "raw" or "cooked" numbers. And it's nearly impossible to compare the two.

Complex carbohydrates aren't listed because analyses can't tell them from some sugars. If you see "Other Carbohydrates" listed, it includes complex carbs plus the sugars they can't be distinguished from.

Loophole: Includes sugars that occur naturally as well as added sugars (like corn syrup). So foods like yogurt, milk, and fruit juices will appear high in sugar.

Also, "Sugars" is an underestimate. It includes only sugars like sucrose and fructose, but not longer-chain sugars that comprise up to two-thirds of some corn syrups.

Helps you see how fatty a food is. If this number is more than a third of the calories, watch out.

Tells you how much of a day's worth of fat, sodium, etc., the food provides. But people eat 15 to 20 foods a day. So don't assume that a food has to have 50 or 100 percent of your Daily Value (DV) for fat (or whatever) to be high.

Our advice: If a food has 20 percent or more of the DV, it's "high" in that nutrient. "Low" means no more than five percent.

Companies can add nutrients like mono-and polyunsaturated fats, and soluble or insoluble fiber, if they choose. Trans fats--which may raise cholesterol levels--are included only in "Total Fat."

Loophole: The FDA refused to set a DV for added sugars, because health authorities haven't set a limit on how much to eat. We recommended 50 grams a day or less.

Companies can voluntarily include a percentage based on a DV for protein of 50 grams (10 percent of a 2,000-calorie diet). That's less than what most Americans now eat and a good target to shoot for.

Everything from here down will be the same on all labels. The 2,000-calorie column applies to most women, children, and men over 50. The 2,500-calorie column more closely represents the needs of younger men, teenage boys, and all very active people.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Center for Science in the Public Interest
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Title Annotation:new labeling regulations for food; warnings about information on labels
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:The cancer men don't talk about.
Next Article:Alice in label-land.

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