Nutrient content claims on packaged foods

Many new food products in the United States (US), regardless of their actual nutritional value, make sugar and calorie-related claims such as "sugar free" and "only 100 calories", that appeal to consumer.

Previous research has shown consumers perceive foods and beverages labelled with nutrient and health claims as "healthier" than foods without such claims, yet many of these products are heavily processed and may not produce health benefits. Also, the presence of front-of-package nutrient and health claims reduces the likelihood that consumers will pay attention to the detailed Nutrition Facts label displayed on the back of the package.

Sugar or calorie-modified products usually contain fewer calories per serving than their counterparts. However, there is a "health-halo" effect with these products, whereby people over consume these products and therefore consume the same or more calories than if they had chosen the full fat option and consumed less.

Reducing sugar intake by selecting sugar and calorie-modified alternatives will not necessarily promote a more nutritious or less sweet diet. Although they contain less sugar than their counterparts, the use of non-nutritive sweeteners still promotes the development of a "sweet tooth" as these sweeteners are much sweeter than table sugar. Products promoted as "low-sugar" or "no-added sugar", often use these sweeteners. These are also documented in the ingredients list using their chemical name making it hard for people to recognize.

Currently, the FDA is considering changes to the Nutrition Facts label to help consumers make healthier choices. The proposed changes will update serving sizes, specify added sugar content, and prominently highlight the number of calories per serving and the number of servings in a container. In the future consideration should be given to highlighting the replacement of added sugars with other sweet ingredients and including a statement about product sweetness and the quantity of non-nutritive sweeteners that have been added. This would make it easier for people to make informed choices about the food they eat and help parents understand what they are feeding their children.  

Posted: 17/07/2014 11:43:35 by Laura Keaver


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