FDAs Laxed Regulations On Calories: Nutrition Label Lies

This weekend I bought a new box of stevia in the raw for baking (which you can check out what I baked here and here). Because I was bored, I decided to read the box while I was waiting for my timer to ding and I saw this:

stevia nutrition label

HUMMMMM… So does stevia have calories in a packet or doesn’t it?

AND… If it is allowed 4 calories without having to claim them, what about the rest of our food?

Are the calories on nutrition labels actually accurate? 

After the baking was done and it was time to relax, I sat myself down to do some research. What regulations are there on food labeling? Oh how I just LOVE the FDA… but that’s for another day.

Here’s what I found: 

The FDA allows quite a large margin of error for food packagers. They allow numbers to be off by 20% to still be in compliance. That means that if a food label reads 300 calories, there could be as little as 240 calories or as many as 360 calories in it!

Ugh, that is so frustrating.

Just think, if most foods are off, how out of wack trying to count calories is.

Now, I understand that it can be difficult to get calories exact based on serving sizes and packaging, I think 20% of quite a large margin.

According to the FDA, there is simply too many foods and products on shelves to make enforcing tighter rules legit. If that’s the case, how do we know that nutrition labels aren’t off by more than 20%? After all, with no one to double check, a company can very easily  under “guestimate” their food.

I mean seriously, if they are allowed to go in either direction of the actual caloric count, how many companies will accidentally over count calories? Pretty sure, no one… except for almond manufacturers (almonds were just discovered to have less calories than believed).

Are foods off by 20%? 

In a new study published by the American Dietetic Association, it appears that most food  contains roughly 8% more calories than are claimed on the label. Not a lot right?

Well, it appears that same study found that restaurants are off by an average of 18%.

I know that 8% doesn’t sound like a lot but if you add that to all of your daily food…

If you are aiming to eat a 2,000/day diet, you could be eating closes to 2200 calories.

What’s a dieter to do? 

  1. Don’t give up on trying to track calories. Study after study shows that people who track their food are more likely to not only lose weight but to keep it off. By tracking food, you’ll naturally make better decisions.
  2. When you go out to eat, be aware. Did you know that since the 50’s that portion sizes have increased 40% in restaurants? Try to split a meal with a friend or ask for the waiter to bag half the meal and plate the other half.
  3. And finally, most foods that have a nutrition label are processed. How many apples or heads of broccoli have you seen with a nutrition label stuck to it? Avoid processed foods and not only will you miss out on the extra calories but also on the fake additives and preservatives. You’ll feel better, have more energy and drop pounds faster by eating a clean diet and saying adios to the crap in boxes.

So, what’s your take on this whole thing? 

Do you think it’s okay to have a 20% margin of error on food labels? 

Just makes me wonder, the calories are just one part of a nutrition label… what else is off? And what is allowed to be left off the ingredient lists? I think I just found my next research project.

Happy Tuesday!


Image source: http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2010/06/


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