Applying labels to things can be good and it can be bad. The labeling of nutritional guidelines on food packaging is critical if we want to turn around poor nutrition in the U.S. This idea was first discussed on the federal level back in 1969 and voluntary nutrition labeling started in the 1970s.
Since the 1970s, a more formal and required food labeling has been put in place. The current FDA mandated labeling became law back in the early 1990s with the “Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.” This new approach to standard labeling passed Congress and was signed into law by then President George H. W. Bush. This law gave authority to the Food and Drug Administration to require nutrition labeling with the intent to give clear understanding to consumers about their food choices. In other words, food labeling is intended to help the consumer make healthy choices and promote food manufacturers incentive to improve the quality of their food products.
Since the 1990s, there have been a few minor changes to labeling with only one major change done in 2006, requiring the addition of Trans Fat percentages to labels. Over the years, our food manufacturing has seen a lot of changes from scientific developments in genetically altered foods, advances in chemical-based sweeteners and advances in processing technology, all of which have not necessarily led to a healthier food supply chain.
Part of the challenge with our advances in agriculture, food processing and manufacturing is we just do not know where or when our foods are grown or manufactured. For example, how and where our produce is grown has become very difficult to track. Large agricultural conglomerates have developed sophisticated systems to move produce quickly and in mass amounts which does not put an emphasis on the health or quality of produce or environmental impact. Since we can transport foods relatively quickly from all regions of the world, helped by refrigeration and freezing, it is difficult to have any idea of quality or sustainable growing practices.
Then we have the all encompassing organic movement where almost anything can be labeled organic. Time and time again, “certified organic” has been misused to mislead consumers, leaving us all wondering if what we are consuming is really healthier food choices. So the importance of honest, monitored food labeling has become an absolute necessity.
We have two very interesting developments regarding food labeling coming into play. This first is proposed changes to the FDA required labeling.
The second interesting development around food labeling is the new FDA menu labeling for restaurants with 20 or more locations. This new nationwide federal menu labeling standard will help give customers access to nutritional information at large chain type restaurants, which serve essentially the same menu across a broad geographic area. The FDA had set the compliance date for the federal government's menu labeling regulation to May 5, 2017. This is good news for health-conscious consumers who want to know the food values of what they are ordering while dining out.
Reading foods labels is something you should be doing if you truly want to achieve better nutrition with your diet. Since the U.S. is currently seeing an epidemic of obesity, chronic inflammation and diabetes, consumers really need a clear understanding of the calories, serving sizes and nutrients that they are consuming on a daily basis to get control of their nutritional health. These changes coming from the FDA is helpful and hopefully encouraging food manufacturers to provide healthier products.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.