Kosher food manufacturers overwhelmingly welcomed the FDA’s new guidelines for nutritional labels, saying they would give consumers more valuable information to make healthier choices.
“We think anything providing more transparency to consumers is a good thing,” said David Sugarman, CEO of Manischewitz. “The idea of the changes is to accurately present to buyers what they will be eating and it is being done in a way that will make a level playing field for everyone.”
Jacob Glauber, director of product development and marketing for Dairy Delight, said the clarity resulting from the new guidelines will answer many questions consumers now direct to companies.
“We will have a lot less headaches,” he said. “How many calories are from this ingredient, how much fructose is in it? Now a lot of those questions will be answered right on the label.”
Some changes, like larger font sizes, are partly cosmetic, but regulators feel they could go a long way in drawing the attention of consumers to important nutritional facts.
The change that has garnered the widest publicity is that serving sizes have been increased for the first time since 1993. A portion of ice cream has been increased from 1/2 to 1/3 of a cup and soda servings from eight ounces to 12. The FDA said the new portions are designed to reflect what most consumers actually eat.
Faigie Hirsh, a nutritionist who works at the Health Emporium in Boro Park, said that changes in serving sizes were a “very logical move.”
“When people sit down with a 12-ounce bottle, they don’t pour eight ounces into a cup; they’re drinking the whole thing,” she said. “They are giving a more realistic view of what people are actually consuming rather than what they maybe should be consuming. It makes it easier for us to make better decisions about what we eat.”
One change that elicited some controversy is the requirement to include a separate line showing how much sugar has been added to the product. Until now, naturally occurring sugars were listed together with any that were added.
Many food manufacturers opposed this change, saying that the two do not have any chemical difference.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Mr. Glauber. “Most people digest all sugars the same way, whether they come from sugar cane or from a mango.”
The FDA cited a 2015 study and a finding by the Institute of Medicine that calorie intake from added sugar is too high and needed to be reduced.
“Our bodies deal with different sugars differently, and some make it much harder for people to lose or to control their weight,” said Mrs. Hirsh.
What remains to be seen is whether the changes will have significant effects on the eating and purchasing habits of consumers, and how (or if) they will affect how foods are produced.
“It’s impossible for us to tell, but, in general, people do not pay as much attention to these things as the FDA thinks. I don’t see it having a big impact,” said a representative of a major kosher food producer who asked that neither he nor his company be named. “For us, the information is all readily available and very transparent, compliance is simple, but I don’t think we will be making any production changes.”
Mr. Sugarman agreed that the changes were unlikely to have a major impact on eating habits, but added that although his company had no immediate changes planned, the review process could yield adjustments.
“It’s something that marketing and quality control will be very busy implementing — the changes — and in the process we might realize there are certain issues we would want to adjust. It might be a good time to take care of certain issues.”