Big changes are coming to food labels near you.
Health Canada is trying to make it easier for Canadians to read and understand nutritional information by proposing to group sugars together on ingredient lists and standardizing serving sizes, among many other things. The changes come in response to criticism from consumers and health professionals that the current labels are too inconsistent and hard to read.
For example, have you ever noticed that the “% Daily Value” section only applies to some nutrients, like fats, but not to others, like sugar? Health Canada wants to change that. If the agency has its way, you’ll soon know how much a chocolate bar or other treat factors into your recommended daily consumption of overall sugar (which may scare us away from drinking super-sugary products like soda in the future).
Vitamins A and C are also going to disappear, since recommended requirements for them can be met with very little effort. Replacing them will be potassium, a nutrient key in maintaining healthy blood pressure, and one that many Canadians aren’t getting enough of. An area will also be added to the bottom of the table letting people know that a nutritional amount of 5 per cent or less is considered “a little” while a serving containing 15 per cent or more is deemed “a lot.”
Serving sizes will also be mandated to more accurately reflect what Canadians actually eat. You may have noticed some difficulty comparing nutrition on two products before, because one would have a serving size of 1/2 cup while the other would measure in millilitres. Health Canada wants to use a streamlined system where similar foods will be measured the same way, tied to the same serving size.
As for the ingredient list, gone are the size-2 fonts nobody can read without a microscope. A minimum font size would be mandated across all products. The agency also proposed grouping sugar-based ingredients together, so it becomes harder for companies to disguise them. Food items like high-fructose corn syrup and agave nectar may appear to sound like completely different ingredients, for example, but they’re basically both fancy words for sugar.
Canadians will be able to comment on the proposed changes until Aug. 26.