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Proposed FDA Nutrition Labels Send Wrong Message

Nothing says loving like something from the oven.  On Valentine’s Day I decided that a batch of everyone’s favorite chocolate chip cookies was just the right treat.  I picked-up my 10 year old granddaughter from school and we made a beeline to Safeway for a package of chocolate chips.

To my surprise there was not one package of semi-sweet chocolate or white chocolate chips less than 12 ounces.  They had three different brands – all quality or high quality name brands (Nestle, Ghirardelli, and Guittard)—regular size chips, mini morsels and extra large but not one single classic 6 ounce package of chocolate chips.  Luckily for my chocolate chip valentines, I can divide – in my head no less!

In the good-old-days when my son was 8 or 12 or 17 – I used to bake a batch of cookies every Sunday.  When making chocolate chips cookies, I always used the recipe on the 6 ounce package of chocolate chips.  Three dozen cookies were plenty for a full week of school lunches, after school snacks and an occasional evening treat – enough for me to eat a couple still warm from the oven.

Today’s common chocolate chip package is twice as large as it was 20 years ago.  It makes 7 dozen cookies – that 84 cookies or 21 per person for a family of 4.  Is that why the FDA concluded after a decade long study by the Obesity Working Group (OWG) “there is evidence that the US  population is eating larger portion sizes?  DUH!!!

American Appetite Growing

The US government spent millions upon millions of your tax dollars and a decade of wasted-time to determine what you already know from your weekly trip to the grocery store.  The standard packages of everything from chocolate chips to Stouffer single serving lasagna to Greek yogurt—heck, even cat sand – are getting larger.  Only exception to this rule is in the produce aisle.

Are the packages getting larger because appetites have grown or, more likely, appetites have grown based on larger packages?  Regardless, in the face of rising food prices and the pressure to consume before used-by food-freshness guarantees expire – people are eating more food.

Rather than confront the direct cause of obesity – excess consumption – FDA bureaucrats just announced new draft federal regulations requiring that food manufacturers recalculate the average serving size to better reflect the current level of consumption.  For example, “who eats just a scoop of ice cream”?  Based on the fact that Ben and Jerry’s make millions of half cup containers, I’d say millions of people.  But our government has now determined that a half-pint is one serving.

This is the dietary equivalent of telling an alcoholic it is okay to drink in moderation.

Updated Nutrition Labels

The new draft FDA nutritional labeling guidelines require that Ben and Jerry’s recalculate the nutritional information (calories) to reflect this new normal.  When was the last time you actually stopped and read the nutritional label on a package of ice cream before reaching for the spoon?

Or the lovely crunch of a potato chip with your lunchtime sandwich.  Restaurants and sandwich shops put those chips right next to the cash register for a reason.  The nutritional label will no longer proclaim the fiction that you can stop with just 1 or (actually) 12 chips – it will have to say 1 serving/300 calories.  That might stop you if the label were on the front of the package where you’d be forced to read it along with the type of chips, rather than on the back of the package you’ll ignore while checking your Facebook page and mindlessly munching.

Leave White Space On Plate

White space surrounding the food on the plate is the key to weight management.  The FDA approach to weight control for hundreds of millions of overweight Americans ignores the obvious facts of consumer behavior.  If a package of food is a single serving, people feel authorized to eat it – whether it is 10 ounces or 6 ounces or 4 ounces.  The emphasis must be on offering consumers more realistic package sizes – even if that is not the optimal use of factory capacity or shelf space.

If you agree more food package size choices might contribute to more moderate sized Americans, express your opinion during the FDA comment period.

If you want to manage your family’s weight – talk to your local grocer about packaging size options, dial up a nutrition facts application on your smart phone and cook more at home.  That’s what I do and it works!

As for those chocolate chips – they’re full of anti-oxidants and 15 equal a wonderful 50 calories dessert!

Photo Credit: KTVK/Pheoniz

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