New food label prioritizes calories and added sugar

    First lady Michelle Obama announces a makeover for food nutrition labels with calories listed in bigger

    First lady Michelle Obama announces a makeover for food nutrition labels with calories listed in bigger

    Experts are concerned that “more realistic” serving sizes might encourage Americans to eat more.

    Those ubiquitous black-and-white food nutrition labels that adorn every food package in America are getting a makeover.

    By July of 2018, the calories will appear in big bold numbers, the serving sizes will be more realistic to how much we actually eat of a particular food, and we will be able to see the amount of extra sugar that has been added to a product, be it ice cream or tomato sauce.

    Health advocates say these changes will allow shoppers to make better decisions, and Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, agrees…to an extent.

    “There are a lot of really good aspects to this label,” says Wansink, enthusiastically.

    Wansink said the readability that comes from a much larger calorie count and the elimination of vitamins C and A (which few American have deficiencies of) was a good move.

    But he does have one big concern with the new design—serving sizes.

    “They’ve made the serving sizes bigger,” Wansink lamented. “So that [on the new label] it reflected what people usually eat. My concern there is that it raises the norms of what people think is appropriate to eat.”

    He says that might be okay for someone who eats a half a bowl of cereal and feels full, but for the rest of us, he worries we’ll interpret this as an invitation to eat more.

    What could the label do better? How about compare foods not in the same categories?

    Wansink says his research at Cornell has indicated that most of us shop within categories, which means we compare granola bars with other granola bars.

    “But what they don’t do is compare the granola bar with the banana,” he said.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.