“How simple life is when one knows nothing.”
– from For Whom The Bell Tolls In a flashy roll-out in late February that featured both First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., the FDA proudly declared its first big modifications to nutrition and supplement labeling in 20 years. Essentially, the Agency proposed “to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The proposed label also would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes”(1). But what does this mean in the real world? Will the planned label modifications affect our companies, goods, and even well-being? Obama’s and Hamburg’s words are comforting, yet uninformative. But one thing is for sure: the FDA planners are living in the past, fighting old battles that current nutrition information shows as nothing but a sideshow. This article exposes the FDA’s real unseen agenda—one that is very hazardous to public health. Perhaps the FDA planners are more ingenious and deceitful than we ever thought.
The New Label Highlights Calories and Serving Size
Beginning with the FDA’s basic planned modifications, you will note many formatting and placement changes from the current Nutrition Facts panel, including the location of calorie count—in the 109 pages of the FDA’s Proposed Rulemaking(2). Since the FDA remains stuck in the old mindset that counting calories will regulate obesity rates, it resolved to dramatically highlight the calorie number with much larger and bold font so no one could miss it. Apparently, strobe lighting is optional.
In addition, the “Serving Size” number will be front and center obliging consumers to read it first. The notion here is that consumers observe the size of a serving when deciding how much to eat. We’ve yet to meet one of these mythological creatures. Notwithstanding those who need to look at serving size for their job, or the OCD calorie counters, how many people consider serving size when deciding how much food to eat within a package? Most eat until full, or when the package is emptied.
Moreover, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor has cheerfully asserted that these modifications will address the obesity epidemic by forcing consumers to focus on calories and serving size. In reality, the changes will sidetrack consumers from the true nutritional issues, like considering the nutritional “density” of a food (i.e., if it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients) and if chemical sweeteners and other fat-promoting ingredients are present. Consumers can now continue chugging gigantic diet sodas, resting assured in the FDA-supported fantasy that weight-loss is about quantity of calories, not quality.
The New Label Has Bigger Serving Sizes
Another FDA proposed modification would update serving size portions to more accurately reveal how much people now eat. The FDA contends, “What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people ‘should’ be eating.”
On this matter, the FDA speaks logically about desiring to “present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting.” For instance, a single serving of ice cream would now be a full cup instead of half a cup.
But the drawback remains that most folks do not consider serving size when eating, and just focus on hunger. A “serving size” is the amount of food needed to feel satiated. I understand that it makes sense to increase serving sizes to adapt to our contemporary eating habits; however, will doing so really accomplish the FDA’s stated goals of decreasing obesity and heart disease rates? Highly unlikely. At least this change does acknowledge that Americans are eating considerably bigger food portions than in the past.
The New Label Indicates “Added Sugars”
At present, nutrition labels solely require a declaration of sugar amount. But in a press release, the FDA announced that “The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that intake of added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced. The FDA proposes to include ‘added sugars’ on the label to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product.”
Americans now eat 60% more sugar than advised by the World Health Organization (WHO). The FDA plans to tackle this issue by adding a required label statement of “Added Sugars.” As a side note, this corresponds to dialogue that has occurred at Codex Alimentarius meetings declaring added sugars on the food labels of its member States.
Although a commendable effort, the public will again be led astray. They will be directed to look at “added sugars” on the label rather than paying attention to the calorie-free artificial sweeteners that are damaging their brains and are indeed much worse for health. Unsafe sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, will not be listed on this revised label. Thus, consumers will be deceived into believing that their choice of a product without “Added Sugars” is a healthier option.
The New Label Removes “Calories from Fats”
Recognizing that the kind of fat rather than quantity is important, the FDA has fittingly proposed to remove “Calories from Fats” from the new label. Given the FDA’s focus on highlighting total calories, this removal is an interesting, yet encouraging, change to be made. Then again, the FDA continues to praise polyunsaturated fats as God’s gift to man. Another swing and a miss.
Fluoride to be Stated on Labels
More and more individuals are learning that fluoride can be a threat to public health, particularly when added as mass medication to water supplies. However, others still believe that fluoride is, as the FDA states, an unnecessary nutrient but has well-founded advantages for dental health. Forget about the fact that fluoride displaces the body’s valuable selenium supply, and definitely never mind that the fluoride-cavity association is highly questionable. The FDA is now proposing that fluoride content may be voluntarily divulged on food labels. For those of us who wish to avoid fluoride, this label change is much appreciated. Ironically, many will use the fluoride label declaration to avoid its ingestion rather than ensure it, as the FDA imagined.
De-emphasizing Some Nutrients
The FDA will now necessitate the declaration of potassium and vitamin D instead of vitamins A and C. They have decided the former are presently more significant for public health than the latter. The FDA states, “some in the U.S. population are not getting enough of [potassium and vitamin D], which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure.”
Although ousted and no longer required if new label modifications are finalized, vitamins A and C may be voluntarily indicated by food manufacturers. The FDA plays favorites, and vitamins A and C are currently out of the running.
Farewell to International Units
Apparently not pleased enough with these label changes (and too many others to note here), the FDA targeted me personally by removing my much-loved International Units. The FDA is ditching the International-Unit potency designations for Vitamins A, D, and E, and substituting them with mcg RAE for Vitamin A, μg for Vitamin D, and mg α-tocopherol for Vitamin E. Section 101.9(c)(8)(iv) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act will be amended. For others, accustomed to thinking of these vitamins potencies in International-Unit potencies, we will now have to adapt to European metric potencies.
To be fair-minded, the change supports consistency with metric potencies for all other vitamins and minerals on the label. Also, but perhaps worryingly, this modification will harmonize U.S. measures to European and Codex measures. This change will ease comparisons, yet perilously unites with plans to match American vitamin-and-mineral potencies to those of less-informed regions of the world.
Distraction from the GMO Issue?
What’s the hottest current label issue in America? Undoubtedly, GMO labeling. Many are in rebellion over genetically modified crops and the threat they pose. GMO label initiatives are nearly as abundant in America as NSA wiretaps on telephones. What better way to distract from the GMO-labeling dispute than to create a new labeling issue? Interesting timing in which the FDA has decided, after 20 years, to propose these changes.
If the FDA actually cared about consumer cognizance through labeling, they would have also planned the labeling of GMOs. They would also provide for conspicuous statements of aspartame and other dangerous sweeteners. Then again, the FDA’s main focus is not consumer health, nor has it been for many, many years.
A Tough Blow to Nutrient Levels
While everybody is concentrating on the label design changes, substitution of verbiage and fancy new appearance, hidden in plain view is the major threat to consumers’ health. The FDA is matching our vitamin-and-mineral levels to those of Codex Alimentarius. Not fully, but largely. Dirty sneaks.
Ever since the National Health Federation’s triumph at the 2009 Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses meeting (where an Australian-led effort to decrease vitamin-and-mineral Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) was rejected), Australia and other Codex delegations have persisted in driving their anti-nutrient program. The U.S. delegation has been noticeably quiet during these debates. We can now see why.
Intriguingly, Codex Alimentarius is cited in the FDA’s Proposed Rulemaking several times. And with this Proposed Rulemaking, the FDA wants to water down our Daily Values to the dreadfully low Codex levels with no fewer than eight vitamins and minerals. Our folic acid level already matches the Codex NRV, and two others are very close. Regarding biotin, the FDA proposes to match the Codex value by cutting its Daily Value by 90%(3)! To view the current and proposed vitamin and nutrient Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs),
In the Federal Register, returning to at least its October 11, 1995 proclamation there, the FDA made clear its intention and aspiration to harmonize food laws with those of the rest of the globe. The Proposed Rulemaking and label modifications verify that this aim remains alive. If global standards for vitamin and mineral levels were higher than our own, then a change would be commendable. But most of the world loathes supplementation, separately or within foods. And because these proposed label changes for daily values relate equally to the Supplement Facts panel and the Nutrition Facts panel, they are, in fact, extremely hazardous.
There is a link between these proposed daily values and maximum upper permitted levels, with harmonized global standards leading the way for decreased vitamin-and-mineral levels, in the form of a pill or from food. In my fifteen years of actively following and debating supplement and food standards and guidelines at Codex meetings, I have observed the trend. Trust me, the trend is definitely not on our side.
The Changes are Not Yet Final
Label changes will not be noticed immediately, since they are still proposed and not final. The FDA is accepting comments from the public for a ninety-day period, which has been extended to August 1, 2014. You should weigh in with your opinion, now. We ask that everyone opposed to this Proposed Rulemaking send their comments electronically to the FDA HERE, or in writing to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5360 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, Maryland 20852. Mention Docket No. FDA-2012-N-1210. If the Proposed Rulemaking is finalized, food manufacturers will have two years to change their labels to comply with the final rule. The FDA estimates that it will cost the industry around $2 billion to change their labels, but the government is rarely accurate regarding the true costs of compliance.
The FDA has decorated its anti-nutrient label modifications with many accessories. Don’t be fooled by the bling. At the core of the matter lies the FDA’s lack of knowledge towards the health advantages of vitamins and minerals. Be informed and tell the FDA just how wrong it is.
About Scott Tips
Scott Tips, J.D. is a licensed attorney in the state of California. Scott earned a B.A. Magna Cum Laude from the University of California at Los Angeles, studied French and history at the Sorbonne, and received his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California Berkley School Of Law. He specializes in food-and-drug law and trademark law, and also participates in business litigation, general business law, and nonprofit organizations.
Scott has been the General Counsel for the National Health Federation (NHF), the world’s oldest health-freedom organization for consumers, since 1989. He is also the Editor-In-Chief of Health Freedom News, the organization’s magazine. Scott became president of the NHF in 2007, and frequently speaks for the organization and for health freedom across the globe. Scott is also a legal columnist, writing a monthly column called “Legal Tips” for Whole Foods Magazine.
Currently, Scott is focused on health-freedom issues such as those stemming from national governments and the Codex Alimentarius organization’s efforts to limit individual freedom in health matters. He attends Codex meetings worldwide, and has published a book called Codex Alimentarius – Global Food Imperialism. To donate to the NHF to help preserve and ensure individual health-freedoms, CLICK HERE.
- FDA News Release, “FDA Proposes Updates to Nutrition Facts Label on Food Packages,” Feb. 27, 2014, www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm387418.htm.
- “Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels,” 79 Fed. Reg. 11879-11987, March 3, 2014, www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/03/03/2014-04387/food-labeling-revision-of-the-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels.
- Ibid, Table 2 at page 11931.
© 2014 Scott Tips