Friday, January 7, 2011

Nutrition Labeling

By this time next year, USDA has mandated that all meat and poultry products will have to contain information on calorie and fat content. Note for instance this label for 10% fat ground beef: half the calories come from fat, one quarter pounder has a quarter of your daily satured fat intake and 2/5 of an average person's protein recommendation. M. Nestle notes that serving sizes have generally been growing (2-3 oz, now 4) but the number of recommended servings of meat has remained constant.

The Institute of Medicine is similarly weighing in on private nutrition labeling programs, finding many to be too much marketing and not enough medicine. They compare how the same product would score using different labeling systems and finds too much variation, implying they provide no real guide for nutrition. "In place of complex multi-nutrient [and algorithm-based] schemes, the report recommends emphasizing just a few key nutrition components for which the research base is most solid and the connection to major chronic diseases is strongest: calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium."

On a related note, this article discusses the importance of vitamin A and the efforts in Bihar, India to provide children with vitamin A supplementation. There is significant outreach to the scheduled castes and tribes, requiring a lot of trained and local labor.

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