College of ACES
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Make nutrition labels work for you

Published March 24, 2017

News writer: Lauren Quinn, 217-300-2435, ldquinn@illinois.edu

Make nutrition labels work for you

URBANA, Ill. – Whether you are trying to lose weight, reduce sodium, or increase your vitamin D intake, you are probably accustomed to studying the nutrition facts labels on the foods you buy. Soon, however, the label will have a new look, as mandated by the Food and Drug Administration. Three nutrition experts from the University of Illinois gathered recently to discuss the changes.

“Many of the changes with the new nutrition facts panel are driven by aesthetics and design,” says assistant professor of agricultural and consumer economics Brenna Ellison. She explains that larger and bolder fonts will be used to place greater emphasis on number of calories per serving and servings per container.

Another big change will be the way that serving sizes are calculated. “In the past, serving sizes were much smaller than what a person would normally eat,” Ellison notes. For example, there are actually four servings in that tiny pint of ice cream in your freezer, according to current labeling standards. Anna Arthur, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, says the new label will reflect more realistic serving sizes.

The new label will also specify the amount of added sugar, whereas current labels lump naturally occurring sugars together with added sugars. “Ice cream contains natural sugar called lactose. In addition, there will be added sugars to enhance the flavor,” Arthur says. 

The discussion was captured in a podcast and a Twitter chat, as part of the #askACES series hosted once a month by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I. During the chat, participants asked the experts a wide range of questions about the new label, and about nutrition labeling in general.

Jennifer McCaffrey, assistant dean of family and consumer science for U of I Extension, fielded a question about teaching kids to pay attention to food labels. McCaffrey suggested getting kids to compare similar products side by side, such as flavored versus unflavored milk.

New labels will roll out by July, 2018, so there is plenty of time to do your research on the new design. For starters, listen to the podcast and search #askACES on Twitter.

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