Get Out the Abacus

In several previous articles I’ve written about the fact that my wife and son have severe food allergies. For that reason, I’m thrilled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made tremendous improvements in food label requirements, especially when it comes to boldly identifying whether a food contains possible allergens.

Again, in the best interests of the public, the FDA is making updates to food label requirements. Although I’m not so sure I’m as excited about this change.

Starting this year, the agency is requiring that food packages containing two or three servings have food labels with two columns: one column that contains nutritional information per serving, and the other for nutritional information for the entire package.

According to Claudine Kavanaugh, the Director of the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the dual column label is now required for “some foods that can reasonably be consumed in one meal or snack.” She elaborated, saying “We know that Americans are eating differently, and the amount of calories and nutrients on the label is required to reflect what people actually eat and drink – not a recommendation of what to eat or drink.”

The fall of my junior year of college was in 1993, when the Wisconsin Badgers were on their way to winning the Rose Bowl, the team got lots of coverage, and many televised games. Some of the games were in prime time, so my buddies and I would order pizza and each buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream to nosh on while we watched our friend Mike Verstegen dominate at offensive tackle.

As college kids, we would annihilate the pizza and devour the ice cream. We didn’t feel bad, though, because the ice cream was only like 370 calories. However, those calories were per serving, and apparently there were three servings in a pint of ice cream.

Under the new rules, the dual columns would show that the entire package of ice cream would have 1,110 calories, which is much more depressing. I feel a little bit like Newman from ‘Seinfeld,’ after Jerry exposes that the non-fat yogurt they were enjoying actually contained fat, forcing them to go back to actual non-fat yogurt.

“Thanks a lot – I hope you’re happy,” he says to Jerry sarcastically. When Jerry claims the yogurt had fat in it and wasn’t good for you, Newman replies, “I don’t care. It was good. I was enjoying it. You had to interfere; couldn’t leave well enough alone. Well, I will get even with you for this. You can count on it!”

Food manufacturers having annual sales of at least $10 million must follow the updated labeling rules starting on January 1, while smaller companies will have another year to comply. The FDA also says it plans to work with manufacturers for the first six months of the year on complying with the new rules rather than taking enforcement action.

The new rules also require that food labels reflect the addition of ‘grams of added sugar,’ which is how much sugar is added during processing versus sugar naturally found in the food, such as in milk or fruit.

Hopefully the new labels will lead to us being more mindful of what we eat. While I know I should eat better, I have a hard time sticking to diets. You might say I’m a desserter.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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