Nutrient Content Claims: Are they Cheating on Us?

When walking through the grocery store it's as if we're being courted by promises of better choices and healthier options.  Many people know that consuming excess amounts of sugar, fat, and salt on a daily basis can contribute to health problems later down the line.  So what have Americans been doing to combat this?  They've been seeking out healthier options, and we should all be proud of our efforts!  However, food companies have been using this health movement to their advantage, leaving many of us feeling cheated on!  They've developed new products, labeling them as "Low Sodium", "Reduced Sugar", and "Fat Free", making them appear as "healthy" options.  But how much better are these options than the originals?  Let's take a look!

Let's us a local favorite as an example, Spam!  Spam has a wide range of products, including their Spam Classic and Spam 25% Less Sodium.  In order to claim a product as "Reduced Sodium" or "Less Sodium", the product must contain at least 25% less sodium than the original reference product.  Spam Classic contains about 790mg of sodium per serving, and Spam 25% Less Sodium contains about 580mg of sodium per serving.  While Spam definitely succeeded in fulfilling its claim by reducing the sodium content by 26.6%, one 2 oz serving of Spam 25% Less Sodium still contains about 15% of our daily recommended intake of sodium!  And let's just be honest, do we really only eat one 2oz serving of Spam?

One more thing to also keep in mind!  When taking out one item, whether it be salt, sugar, or fat, food companies need to compensate for the change in taste.  The strategy they usually employ is adding something else, usually either salt, sugar or fat!  One example is Yoplait 25% Less Sugar Yogurt.  They claim that their reduced sugar products have reduced their calorie and sugar contents, but they compensate by increasing their fat content from 1.5g to 2g per 6oz cup!

For more information on understanding Nutrient Content Claims, visit www.fda.gov

Created by: Lavender Oyadomari (UH Manoa Student Intern)

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