Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label

The FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The new label will make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices.

Label Format: Original vs. New

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What’s Different

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Serving Size Changes

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Read more at FDA . . . . .

Today’s Comic

Infographic: Nutrient Contents of Nuts and Seeds

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Source: Today’s Dietitian

Organic Milk ‘Is Healthier’ than Conventional Milk, Study Says

“Organic meat and milk could offer health benefits, study suggests,” The Guardian reports.

The news is the conclusion of two reviews looking at the available evidence on the potential benefits of organic meat and milk compared to their conventionally-farmed counterparts. We decided to focus our efforts on the milk review, as it is the larger of the two studies.

The study found some differences in nutrient levels. While organic milk had more omega-3 fatty acids, linked to improved heart health, and was slightly higher in iron and vitamin E, it also had lower levels of iodine and selenium. Iodine is needed by the body to produce the thyroid hormone, and selenium helps to protect against cell damage.

Overall levels of saturated fat did not differ between the two production methods.

Importantly, we do not know if any of these results would actually have a significant impact on long-term health outcomes. Studies looking at this, such as a cohort or randomised study, would be required to provide some sort of answer.

In many cases, people prefer organic food and drinks for environmental and animal welfare reasons, so health issues may not be that important to them.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from a large number of universities and research institutes across Europe, including Newcastle University, the Norwegian Institute for Biochemistry Research and Warsaw University of Life Sciences.

It was funded by the European Community and the Sheepdrove Trust. The latter is a charity that supports research into organic farming practices.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Nutrition on an open-access basis, so it is free to read online (PDF, 1.6Mb).

The UK media was split in its reaction. The Daily Telegraph reported that the study “sparked a row among nutritionists,” some of whom claimed the results “stretch credibility”. The Mail Online was uncritical of the study, saying it “found clear differences” between organic and conventional food, calling it a “landmark study”. The Metro was also uncritical, suggesting that if you buy organic you could “give yourself a pat on the back”.

The Guardian and The Independent took a more neutral viewpoint, providing quotes from the researchers, as well as critics of the research.

What kind of research was this?

This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies comparing the nutritional content of organically-produced and conventionally-produced fresh milk. The meta-analysis only looked at cows’ milk, although the study as a whole reported on results from some trials on sheep, goat and buffalo milk.

Standard systematic review and meta-analysis techniques were used. However, all the included studies were considered to be at high or unclear risk of bias because they didn’t report results or methods in full, or didn’t give enough detail about possible confounding factors. This reduces the reliability of the results.

Ultimately systematic reviews and meta-analyses are only as good as the information you feed into them.

What did the research involve?

The researchers looked for studies published from 1992 (when legal standards for farms describing themselves as organic were introduced into the EU) and 2014. They pooled the data to get average figures, looking at specific nutrient levels in organic and non-organic fresh cows’ milk.

They tested the results for reliability and came up with percentage differences for organic and non-organic milk.

The researchers also carried out a study to identify what might have caused the differences in nutrient levels. They used data from a big European farm survey to identify the practices linked to composition of organic and conventional milk.

They also investigated what other factors could have influenced their results, including geographical differences that could affect (for example) the nutrients in grass.

What were the basic results?

The main result that researchers found was a higher level of certain fatty acids – linked to better heart health – in organic milk. While levels of saturated fat and monounsaturated fat were about the same, organic milk contained slightly higher polyunsaturated fatty acid levels, including, on average:

  • 56% more omega-3 fatty acid than conventionally-produced milk (95% confidence interval (CI) 38 to 74%)
  • 69% more alpha-linoleic acid (95% CI 53 to 84%)
  • 41% more conjugated linoleic acid (95% CI 14 to 68%); however, the effects of conjugated linoleic acid on human health are unclear from research

Looking at vitamins and minerals, the researchers found slightly higher levels of vitamin E and iron, but lower levels of iodine and selenium. Milk is not a major source of iron or vitamin E in the diet.
The researchers said that results varied a lot by country or geographic region. They said differences in cows’ food explained much of the difference in nutritional levels, with more grazing on grass and silage (as is more common in organically-reared cattle) linked to higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers said their results showed that switching from conventional to organic dairy farming, “will result in substantive improvements in milk fat composition,” although they admit there are “virtually no studies in which the impacts of organic food consumption on animal or human health were assessed”.

They said the results suggested that people wishing to increase their consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could switch to organic milk as a “complementary dietary approach”. They say drinking the equivalent of half a litre of full-fat organic milk would provide an estimated 16% of the recommended daily allowance of omega-3 fatty acids, compared to 11% if you drank the same amount of conventional milk.


The arguments over whether organically-produced food is better for human health are unlikely to be resolved by this study. While the researchers have shown that some potentially beneficial fats are higher in organic milk than conventional milk, we don’t know how much of an effect this would have on people’s health.

Omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid have been associated with improvements in heart health, though causation has yet to be established. Indeed, the latest guidance from NICE does not recommend supplements of omega-3 for prevention of heart attacks, although it acknowledges that taking them does not appear to cause harm. In contrast, there’s little evidence about the effect of conjugated linoleic acid on human health.

There are other factors worth bearing in mind. Firstly, the beneficial fats specified in this study are found in dairy fat, so would be a very small constituent of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. Many people who want to protect their heart choose not to drink full-fat milk. Even if you did drink half a litre of full-fat organic milk a day, that would only give you a small proportion of the fatty acids recommended – and you would be getting the same level of saturated fats as drinking conventional milk. This would be 11g – over half the recommended 20g maximum daily saturated fat intake for women, or over a third of the 30g recommended for men.

The differences in vitamin and nutrient levels are small, and as the researchers note, the vitamins and minerals (vitamin E and iron) found at higher levels in organic milk are unlikely to have much effect on human health, as other foods provide much more of them in our regular diets.

Without good-quality studies that look at the effects on health of consuming mainly organic food, we can’t really tell whether organically-produced food is better for our health.

It would be unwise to assume that organic foods and drinks are having a protective effect on your heart health if you neglect other important factors, such as your weight, exercise levels and alcohol consumption.

Source: NHS Choice

Daily Value for Added Sugars Coming to Food Labels

Food manufacturers will be required to tell consumers how much sugar is added to their products and show how the amount compares to recommended daily limits under new changes to nutrition labels proposed by the FDA on Friday.

Many nutritionists and public health experts blame rising amounts of added sugars in processed foods for contributing to rising rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

But it can be tough to tell how much of the sweet stuff is in processed foods. Nutrition labels only tally total sugars, a measure that includes both those naturally present in foods like fruits and vegetables and those that are added during manufacturing.

Food labels also list ingredients by weight, so the higher up on the ingredient list, the more sugar is in a food. But manufacturers use many different names for added sugars, such as dextrose and fructose. And they sometimes use several different kinds of sugar in the same product so they can list each one lower down on the ingredient list — further obscuring the total amount.

“It’s a great public health victory,” says Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. “This is what consumers need to know so they can make healthy choices. They need to know that 20-ounce [soda] has about 130% the daily value of added sugar.”

In March 2014, the FDA proposed adding the amount of added sugars, in grams, to food labels. The agency said Friday it is revising that proposal to also tell consumers how much added sugar a food contains relative to a total daily limit — a measure called the percent daily value.

Specifically, regulators are proposing that people limit the added sugar they eat to no more than 10% of their total daily calories. For a person who eats 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. A teaspoon of sugar is about 16 calories.

“The FDA has a responsibility to give consumers the information they need to make informed dietary decisions for themselves and their families,” says Susan Mayne, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in a news release.

The advice for the past decade has been to cut back on added sugars in the diet, she says, “and the proposed percent daily value for added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is intended to help consumers follow that advice.”

The change comes after the FDA reviewed the recent recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The committee’s report found that it was hard for a person to get all the recommended nutrients in their diet if they also ate more than 10% of their total daily calories as sugar.

The proposed changes will be open for public comment for 75 days.

The food industry has lobbied hard to keep added sugars off food labels. Public policy experts say they expect significant push back on the changes.

“I expect the food industry — led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association — to go berserk over this one,” says Marion Nestle, PhD, in an email to WebMD. Nestle is a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. She predicts food makers will go to Congress to try to block the changes.

Source: WebMD

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FDA Wants to Strengthen Sugar Labeling . . . . .

New Nutrition Facts Panels in Canada Won’t Have Line on Added Sugars

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Carly Weeks wrote . . . . .

Nutrition facts panels in Canada are getting a makeover, with changes to serving sizes and a streamlined definition of sugar designed to help consumers cut through the complexity of current labels.

Despite an earlier proposal, the nutrition labels Health Minister Rona Ambrose unveiled on Friday will not have a line spelling out exactly how many grams of sugar have been added to a particular product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on the other hand, is pushing for a mandatory “added sugars” line on food labels south of the border.

Ms. Ambrose said one of the most significant changes will be the introduction of a “per cent daily value” for sugar, which is supposed to help people determine whether a particular food serving has a lot of, or a little, sugar. The bottom of each nutrition panel will tell consumers that a daily value of 5 per cent or less is a small amount, while 15 per cent or more is large.

The per-cent daily value will be based on a total of 100 grams of sugar. It will not distinguish between natural sugars in fruit and dairy products, and so-called “free” sugars in fruit juice, soft drinks or sweetened cereals and yogurts.

Experts like Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, say that is a serious misstep because research shows “free” sugars, which include sugar added to foods, as well as honey, syrups, and fruit juice, are linked to health problems, while fruits, yogurt and other natural sources of sugar are important elements of healthy diets.

“The evidence points to added sugars having unique risks to human health,” Dr. Freedhoff said.

Sugar has been one of the most controversial aspects of the government’s overhaul of nutrition labels. Several large studies have linked moderate and high sugar intake to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other serious health problems. Mounting public concern prompted the government to overhaul the way sugar is presented on Canadian nutrition facts panels.

The federal government’s changes will also create more standardized serving sizes for similar food items, making it easier for consumers to compare in the grocery store aisle. The mandated serving sizes are also intended to reflect more accurately how much people eat. For instance, the serving size for a loaf of bread will be two slices, not one.

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Source: The Globe and Mail

Read more

Government of Canada announces proposed new nutrition labels and tools to promote healthier food choices . . . . .

Health Canada proposes new nutrition labels; new DV for total sugar deemed unhelpful . . . . .

Health Canada Giving Food Industry Nearly 7 YEARS to Adopt New Labels! . . . . .