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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

FDA May Tackle Serving Sizes

Food companies think you're stupid. And they're right because they get away with lying to you legally.

I'm talking about what constitutes a serving size for the purpose of giving you information about calories, sugars, fat, and protein along with other nutrients. Serving sizes are supposed to be how much an average person would eat at one time. Hogwash. How many containers have you seen that you and everybody else in the world eats all of even though there are officially two and a half servings in it?

Why do companies do this? Because it makes calories seem so much smaller. It makes fats seem minimal. It makes sugar seem reasonable.

According to William Neuman of The New York Times

For ice cream, the serving size is half a cup. For packaged muffins, it is often half a muffin. For cookies it is generally one ounce, equal to two Double Stuf Oreos. For most children’s breakfast cereals, a serving is three-quarters of a cup.

It is difficult to say exactly how much people eat, said Lisa R. Young, an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, but she said that research showed that the portions Americans serve themselves had been growing in recent years.

When it comes to cereal, she said, many children probably eat two cups or more.

Parents who glance at a box of Frosted Flakes and see that it contains 110 calories per serving may not realize that their children may be getting several times that amount each morning at breakfast.

It isn't just Americans who haven't learned this lesson. An Australian group studied the subject and found that people routinely ate far more than a serving.
"We had breakfast in the boardroom, invited people to pour what they would normally have at that serve and we actually weighed it," she said.

"And while it's a small study it was interesting, because what we found was that on average, the men were pouring about 49 per cent more than the serving size recommended on the pack.

"Women were pouring 26 per cent more than the recommended serving size on the pack.

"So certainly if this information is going to be the basis for nutrition information then we need to get serve sizes right."

Official serving sizes are long overdue for revision, Neuman wrote.
Standard serving sizes were created by the F.D.A. in the early 1990s, partly to make it easier to compare the nutritional values of different products. Congress required that the serving sizes match what people actually ate. To determine that, the F.D.A. evaluated data from surveys of Americans’ eating habits taken in the 1970s and 1980s.

Some nutritionists say those surveys may be suspect, since people typically underestimate how much they eat. And there is general agreement that they are out of date.

The FDA says it's going to look at this issue. Good.
"If you put on a meaningful portion size, it would scare a lot of people," said Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina. "They would see, 'I'm going to get 300 calories from that, or 500 calories.'"
We need to be scared. Labels are lying to us. It has to stop.

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