Nutrition Labels Changing – Have Your Voice Heard

nutrition labelA couple of weeks ago, Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced proposed changes to Canada’s nutrition labeling requirements. Overall, the proposed changes were welcomed by health professionals. While the response to these stories has been positive, one thing that I noticed lacking in the majority of coverage of this story, was the fact that Health Canada is currently undergoing the public consultation phase of this project, which will last until September 11, 2014. That means you, the consumer, have a chance to voice your opinion on these proposed changes. As a student member of Dietitians of Canada, I was informed of this consultation process via email. I’m not sure that I would have learned about the consultation phase otherwise. I took the time to carefully read the information given and spent less than 10 minutes providing my feedback. I encourage you to do the same.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the proposed changes:

Serving Sizes: Currently, food manufacturers must base the nutrition information on a range of serving sizes, which is based on the type of product. The problem is the range gives companies a lot of ‘wiggle-room’ with how they present the information. That’s why you can see 3 different serving sizes on different yogurts, making it difficult to compare products. Under the new guidelines, serving sizes will be more user friendly.

% Daily Value: The percent daily value is given on the Nutrition Facts Table for certain components. This can be a useful tool to determine whether or not a food has ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ of something. The problem is that there is no explanation as to what constitutes ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ or how to use this information. The guideline is that 5% or less equates to ‘a little’ and 15% or more equates to ‘a lot’. Under the new guidelines, this explanation will be present on all Nutrition Facts Tables. If you are trying to avoid added sugars, salt, or trans fats, then products that have less than 5% of these items per serving size are the better choices. Going for more fiber? Choose products with 15% or more % DV. You don’t have to wait for the changes to implement these practices.

Added Sugar: Finally! This is the change I am most excited about. The proposed changes will require that Nutrition Facts Table separate added sugars from naturally occurring sugars. This will allow you to see how much sugar has been added to a product during processing. But there’s more. Under the new guidelines, the types of sugar will be grouped together on the ingredients list. In one place, clear as day, for all to see.

You can find more information about the proposed nutrition changes at the Health Canada website.  Most importantly, you can have your voice heard here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

What do you think about the proposed changes? Do you use the information on nutrition fact labels to guide purchase decisions?

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