Today the FDA proposed to make that 20 oz. Coke that you've been enjoying in 2.5 drinking occasions to now be a single serving.  Of course you've always followed the direction of the labels - gotten 4 servings of ice cream out of that pint (when it was still a pint) - had 8 servings of potato chips (or more) out of that bag of chips.  Who doesn't follow the recommended serving size. Apparently no one.  Or at least almost no one.  I know I don't.

20oz. Coke label
20oz. Coke label

So now, the FDA is re-aligning the serving sizes to be closer to how people actually eat.  Hooray!  We'll actually learn the total calorie count on that soda as we drink the whole thing. Or perhaps truly understand how many calories we're taking in by digging into that pint of ice cream spoon first. (I always used to say that a pint of ice cream was more like a single serve - I even wrote a newsletter article about it for my master's swim team in NYC - that's before blogging became popular).

What does this mean for us? We're going to get added visibility into how much we're actually eating.  In addition to the "real serving" - they are including added sugar so we know how much sugar we're ingesting that's been added to our foods.

from the NY Times
from the NY Times

I've been thinking about the idea of "added sugar" - its supposed to be the sugar that isn't naturally found in the food but is added by the manufacturers to make food more palatable to us.  But when do you call something "added sugar" and when is it part of the product itself?

Newman's Own Strawberry Greek Yogurt - with sugar added...
Newman's Own Strawberry Greek Yogurt - with sugar added...

Take yogurt as an example.

This is the current nutrition label from Newman's Own Greek Yogurt (strawberry flavor).  Clearly they've called out the sugar separate from the strawberries - but aren't the strawberries just necessary to make the "jam" that is part of the fruit on the bottom?  And if that's the case, can't we just call it Strawberry Jam flavor yogurt and say that the sugar comes as part of that?

I'm hoping the FDA has thought about this but it seems like, at least in this case, it could be considered part of the product itself and not necessarily added.

If you're a food manufacturer, once these changes are finalized and go through, it will mean a lot of rework and relabeling.  It will be interesting to see how consumers react to the new labels, including the added sugar, and if it prompts any changes to ingredients.  Of course that also means it won't allow things to be as sweet, which is counter to what people say they want.

My guess is that it will be a lot like canned soup.  People are sometimes surprised when they see the amount of sodium in it, but they still buy it and eat it.  Same with almost every other packaged food product.  Can't live with it, can't live without it.

How do you think the new nutrition labeling will change the way you buy packaged foods?

-Rob