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FDA Cracking Down on Misleading Nutrition Labels

Posted October 22, 2009 in Disease Prevention, Fitness & Nutrition, Wellness & Anti-Aging News

It’s great to be home! It’s been hectic since I got back, but I’ll report on my trip soon. I’ve posted a couple of photos on Facebook, in the meantime though.

Great news today on the nutrition front – the FDA is going after manufacturers who label their food “healthy” when they are very clearly not. For those of us searching the aisles for nutritious food choices, it’s infuriating to learn we’ve been misled.

NPR has put together a list of six such “healthy” foods to stay away from.  Unfortunately this kind of labeling is indicative of the lengths gone to by brands jumping on the “healthy” bandwagon only to sell product – with no intent to provide healthy food.

From NPR

When a food claims to be a “Smart Choice” or “Heart Healthy,” and it’s written right there on the front of the package, should you believe it? Not all the time, says the Food and Drug Administration.

Oscar Mayer Lunchables.

Should snacks like these be considered health foods? (Joe Raedle/Getty)

The FDA is taking a long, hard look at companies that tout their products as healthy eating options. The agency is also thinking about a unified healthy label system, maybe like a voluntary one relying on eating “traffic lights” in the UK.

We dug through lists of the purported healthy foods out there now, and you can do the same by searching the online guides for Smart Choices and even the American Heart Association.

Many of the foods seem just fine. But more than a few struck us as misplaced. We compared notes with Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that spends a lot of time looking at food issues. Here’s a list of six “healthy” foods you might think twice about.

Kellogg Corn Pops and Froot Loops
Jacobson says that including cereals loaded with sugar is a big problem with the Smart Choice list. Touting cereals made with highly processed, refined grains instead of the whole grains FDA and others recommend is also ill-advised, he says.
Kraft Strawberry Bagel-fuls
These are white flour bagels, stuffed with sugar-sweetened, artificially colored strawberry puree. The processed white flour and oodles of sugar seem a curious choice for a healthy seal of approval.
Fudgesicle Low-Fat Original Fudge Bars
Jacobson faults the snacks as “nothing foods.” The frozen pops don’t have any nutrients or vitamins and are artificially flavored and colored, so they shouldn’t be pushed on consumers as “healthy,” he says.
Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice
The American Heart Association lists this instant rice as heart healthy. Jacobson says it may not cause heart disease, but it’s not going to do you much good either.
Oscar Mayer Lunchables, Cheese Pizza
Fat, half of which is saturated, accounts for 90 percent of the calories in this food item. For a small amount of food (4 1/2 ounces), it also pack a salty punch, with 640 grams of sodium, or 27 percent of the recommended daily limit.
None of the above seem particularly tasty to me, let alone healthy. (Fruit Loops, healthy…seriously?)  While labels can be misleading, packaged food in general is not a great idea. You can’t go wrong with fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean proteins.
Thanks for reading,
Andre Berger, M.D.
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Benefits of a “Mediterranean Diet”

Anti-Aging Superfoods