FDA’s Proposed Changes to Nutrition Label Draws Widespread Attention

Story at-a-glance -

  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing updates to the nutritional labels on processed foods and drinks
  • Packages that could be consumed in either one or multiple sittings will have to bear a “dual column” label, showing the nutrient information “per serving” and “per package,” side-by-side
  • Other proposed changes include the addition of “added sugars,” and suggested daily values (DV) for vitamin D and potassium, while DV for vitamins A and C would be removed
  • According to First Lady Michelle Obama, the guiding principle for the changes is to make it as easy as possible for you to check the label and “be able to tell whether it’s good for your family”
  • This is exactly why Americans want genetically engineered (GE) ingredients to be listed on the labeled as well. Identifying GE ingredients may be one of the most important factors for assessing wholesomeness

By Dr. Mercola

Have you ever grabbed a snack, looked at the list of ingredients, and thought, "Oh that's not so bad," only to later realize you actually just ate eight times the amount of sugar and calories you thought you were eating?

That's a problem the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it will now try to correct, by altering the nutritional labels on processed foods.1, 2, 3 As reported by the Los Angeles Times:4

"Ever notice how an individual bag of chips will list the amount of calories per single serving, but not the amount for the entire bag? Chances are, you're going to finish the bag, and the new proposed nutrition labels will reflect that, with calorie information for the amount people will realistically eat."

If it goes through, it'll be the first time the nutritional label gets a major overhaul. Since the introduction of nutrition facts labels in 1993, the only major change was when declaring trans fat content became a requirement in 2006.

Proposed Changes to American Nutrition Labels

Packaged foods that are typically consumed in one sitting will now have to declare total calories and other nutrient data as one single serving. No more chip bags giving you nutritional data for what amounts to a dozen chip pieces.

Larger packages that could be consumed in either one or multiple sittings will have to bear a "dual column" label, showing the nutrient information "per serving" and "per package," side-by-side. An FDA mockup of what this new dual column label might look like is shown below.

Nutrition Facts Dual Column Format


Source: FDA.gov


Other proposed changes include:

  • Boosting serving sizes to more realistically reflect how much an individual typically eats. For example, the current serving size for a pint of ice cream is four servings. The proposed serving size for a pint of ice cream would be two servings. Both 12 and 20 ounce bottled drinks would also be considered equal to one serving, as most people drink either size in one sitting
  • Adding a separate line for "added sugars," to let you know how much sugar has been added to the product, over and beyond naturally-occurring sugars
  • Decreasing the suggested daily value of sodium from 2,400 mg to 2,300 mg (the agency is also accepting comments on an even lower amount of 1,500 mg)
  • Removing the suggested daily value of vitamins A and C (as the FDA claims deficiencies in these vitamins are rare; they may still be listed on the label on a voluntary basis) and replacing them with suggested daily value of vitamin D and potassium (to combat widespread deficiencies in these nutrients)
  • Total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat will still be listed, but companies would no longer be required to list calories from fat. The FDA's rationale for this suggestion is that the type of fat you eat is more important than the amount.
  • Sadly this is a move in the wrong direction. Ideally, there should be a distinction between monounsaturated, saturated, and omega-6 and 3 fats. This would allow you to wisely choose beneficial fats. When seeking to reverse insulin resistance, a helpful strategy is to get anywhere from 50-85 percent of your daily calories in the form of healthful fats, which includes saturated fat but NOT trans fat or processed omega-6 fats.

Public Comment Period Open Until June 2

The FDA will accept public comments for 90 days. You can submit either electronic or written comments on the proposed rules until June 2, 2014. To do so, see the FDA's Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label page,5 and select the appropriate Comment Now button in the blue text box.

Once the rule is finalized, food manufacturers will have two years to comply with the new rules. Updating the label is expected to cost food companies around $2 billion.

Urgent Action Item: Oppose Banning 'Folate' Term on Label

I also want to alert you to two paragraphs snuck in on page 69 of the FDA's 109-page proposal that threatens your access to folate, a B vitamin that is critical for health. As reported by Alliance for Natural Health (ANH):6

"It's a sneak attack so quiet and unobtrusive that few people will even realize it's there. According to the guidance, the word "folate" will be banned from the Supplement Fact labels —only the term "folic acid" will be allowed.

Folate is the naturally occurring form of the water-soluble vitamin B9. It is found in foods such as black-eyed peas, chickpeas and other beans, lentils, spinach, turnip greens, asparagus, avocado, and broccoli, but is also available as a supplement...Folic acid, on the other hand, is synthetically produced, and refers to just one member of the folate group: pteroylmonoglutamic acid . While folic acid occurs only rarely in whole foods, it's extremely stable, which is why it's widely used in dietary supplements and to fortify processed foods... It's estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent of the population can't efficiently convert synthetic folic acid into folate...

Note that the FDA is not exactly banning the inclusion of folate and requiring the inclusion of folic acid in supplements. As usual, it is playing a much more subtle insider's game. It is simply banning supplement producers from using the word folate on their labels and conversely only allowing the word folic acid on their labels. But it would of course be fraudulent to put folic acid on your label and then use something else. The FDA understands that perfectly."

Why would the FDA do this, you might ask? One likely possibility is because it may be trying to reserve folate for drug industry use only. Not only are dietary folates essential for life, but they also have proven therapeutic benefits. Merck already holds patents on a drug called Metafolin, which is a bioavailable form of folate. Should this label change go through, Merck could stand to make billions of dollars in profits. Of course, other drug companies would surely follow suit with their own drug versions of patentable folate. As noted by ANH:

"Sound unlikely? It's not—both forms of fish oil and vitamin D have already been turned into patented drugs. Imagine if competition from supplemental forms of fish oil or D could be wiped out at one stroke by saying no supplement label could use the term!"

Your Help is Needed. Please Take Action Now!

I urge you to take action on this by sending your message to the FDA right now. The FDA must not be allowed to implement this change in its Supplement Facts rules. Implementation would mean that supplement producers would be forced to use synthetic folic acid only. If you want or need bioavailable folate, you'll have no choice but to purchase a patented drug variety, at a far greater cost than currently available in supplement form. Please join me in telling the FDA not to convert a critical, natural B vitamin from a supplement to a drug through bureaucratic labeling sleight-of-hand.

Take Action

Label Changes, Your 'Right to Know,' and What They're STILL Hiding

According to a statement by First Lady Michelle Obama, the guiding principle for the changes to the nutritional label is to make it as easy as possible for you to check the label and "be able to tell whether it's good for your family."

"As consumers and as parents, we have a right to understand what's in the food we're feeding our families. Because that's really the only way that we can make informed choices—by having clear, accurate information," the First Lady said at a recent White House ceremony, where the proposed nutrition label updates were announced.7

Ironically, this is exactly why Americans want genetically engineered (GE) ingredients (also known as genetically modified organisms or GMO) to be listed on the label as well. Knowing whether a food contains GE ingredients may in fact be FAR more important a factor when it comes to making a determination about the product's wholesomeness than knowing how much vitamin D has been added.

Former FDA commissioner David Kessler may have hit the proverbial nail on the head when he commented on the proposed label updates with the following statement:8 "The food label is not just about giving consumers information but about creating incentives for the industry to create healthier products. No company wants their product to look bad on the food label."

And, to quote Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto: "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."Braksick's quote was published in the March 7, 1994 issue of the Kansas City Star, and it speaks volumes when it comes to the question of WHY food companies are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to fight GMO labeling rather than just adding another food fact to their labels.

Why Food Manufactures Fear GMO Labeling

Monsanto wants you to simply trust them because they're "experts" and because their short-term industry-funded studies indicate their GE foods are safe. But these same experts also told you PCBs, Agent Orange, DDT, and glyphosate were safe, and we now know those claims were far from accurate.

In terms of reliability, there's a big difference between corporate science, which tends to primarily favor and support corporate interests, and independent science, performed without preconceived bias. Scientists have, in fact, discovered a wide variety of health problems and long-term safety concerns related to genetically engineered foods. For example:

A 2009 Brazilian study9 discovered that female rats fed GE soy for 15 months showed significant changes in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy.
A study performed by Irina Ermakova10 with the Russian National Academy of Sciences reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GE soy died within three weeks, while the death rate in the non-GE soy group was only 10 percent. Additionally, the babies in the GE group were smaller, and, worst of all, could not reproduce. In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova's feeding trials were completed, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility commercial rat chow using GE soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55 percent.
An analysis11 of 19 animal studies published in 2011 revealed that nearly 10 percent of blood, urine, organ, and other parameters tested were significantly influenced by GMOs, with the livers and kidneys faring the worst.
In 2012, the first-ever lifetime feeding study assessing the health risks of genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready corn (NK603), revealed massive tumors, organ damage, and early death. Rats given glyphosate in their drinking water also developed tumors.
Some 30 different animal studies show that GE foods can be toxic or allergenic.12 Most studies with GE foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects, and may alter blood, biochemical, and immunologic parameters.
Recent research shows that glyphosate in the diet causes nutritional deficiencies and systemic toxicity, and may be one of the most important factors in the development of chronic disease that have become prevalent in Western society.

GE crops are typically far more contaminated with glyphosate than conventional crops, courtesy of the fact that they're engineered to withstand extremely high levels of Roundup without perishing along with the weed. In one test, GE corn was also found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate, compared to zero in non-GE corn.

Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria, and that's the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals. The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 10 to 1. For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate.

How Chemical Technology Industry Fooled You into Thinking GE Crops Are 'the Most Tested' Products in the World

Contrary to what the chemical technology industry is telling you, genetically engineered foods have never been proven safe for human consumption over a lifetime, let alone over generations. Monsanto and its advocates claim genetically engineered crops are "the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen," but what they don't tell you is that:

  1. Industry-funded research predictably affects the outcome of the trial. This has been verified by dozens of scientific reviews comparing funding with the findings of the study. When industry funds the research, it's virtually guaranteed to be positive. Therefore, independent studies must be done to replicate and thus verify results. So far, independent researchers are NOT coming up with favorable results. Quite the contrary. And the industry fights tooth and nail to eliminate such findings from the official record.
  2. The longest industry-funded animal feeding study was 90 days, which recent research has confirmed is FAR too short. In the independently funded lifetime feeding study I just mentioned, massive health problems set in during and after the 13th month, including organ damage and cancer. When you consider that a rat lives for about two years, compared to the human lifespan of about 80 years, the ramifications of this negligent approach of doing safety studies too short to detect problems that might develop within the lifetime of a human consumer should be quite apparent, since most Americans now unwittingly feed their children GE foods from infancy. Is it really appropriate to deem a food safe if it might rob our children of one-quarter of their already limited lifespan? Science and technology should help us live productive, healthy lives into our 100s, not cut it down to 50!
  3. Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta rarely if ever allow independent researchers access to their patented seeds, citing the legal protection these seeds have under patent laws. Hence, independent research is extremely difficult or nearly impossible to conduct. If these scientists get seeds from a farmer, they sue them into oblivion as one of their favorite tactics is to use the legal system to their advantage. Additionally, virtually all academic agricultural research is controlled by Monsanto as they are the primary supporters of these departments and none will risk losing their funding.
  4. There is no safety monitoring. Meaning, once the GE item in question has been approved, not a single country on earth is actively monitoring and tracking reports of potential health effects.