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Too Much To Digest? FDA Mulls Changes To Sometimes-Confusing Nutrition Labels

Possible Changes Are Larger Fonts And Removing 'Calories From Fat' Section
(Credit: CBS 2)

(Credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Are nutrition labels too much for consumers to digest?

From misleading serving sizes to confusing calorie counts, many think nutrition labels are due for an update.

Jennifer Beall is a college student living on her own for the first time. She said when she buys something at the supermarket, she always reads the nutrition label.

“When I was in middle school in my consumer ed class, they taught us how to read it,” Beall told CBS 2’s Alexis Christoforous on Wednesday.

But the Food and Drug Administration thinks the labels need an update. The agency surveyed thousands of consumers who said they find some of the information confusing, particularly when it comes to how many calories are inside.

While some labels may tell you the number of calories, there is sometimes confusion over whether the calorie count is referring to an individual serving. Consumers may not realize that there are multiple servings in one particular product.

And it can be easy to eat more than you intended. CBS 2’s Christoforous found a muffin label that said it had 170 calories per serving, but a serving size is half a muffin.

Beall said some of the labels don’t make sense.

“Like I got pickles and it said a fourth of a pickle was the serving size,” Beall said.

The FDA has some proposals to simplify things.

For example, calculating the nutrition in snack-sized bags as just one big serving or using a dual-column system: one column with calories per serving, the other for the total package.

The FDA is also considering a larger font size for numbers that show calories and removing the calories from fat section, which is difficult for consumers to understand.

“I agree with that,” said registered dietitian Melanie Desapri. “I think they get very confused by the percent calories from fat. So I think just the total calories would be beneficial for them.”

The next step is to get input from the public and try the changes in stores.

It’s unclear if and when the FDA might actually make the recommended changes to food labels. For now, experts said consumers should look closely at nutrition information, including serving sizes and where the calories in their food are coming from.

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