CSPI claims that current serving sizes as indicated on food packages do not always reflect what Americans actually eat, meaning that labels can understate the amount of sugar, sodium, saturated fat or the number of calories that are likely to be consumed in one sitting. Under FDA regulations, serving sizes listed on product labels should accurately reflect the amount of the product which is “customarily consumed.”
The organization gave the example of Campbell’s condensed soup, which is labeled as containing 790mg of sodium per serving – referenced as one cup, or just under half a can. But in a national telephone survey of over 1,000 adults commissioned by CSPI, 90 percent of consumers said they ate more than the listed serving size, and 64 percent said they consumed the whole can in one sitting, containing 1,840mg of sodium.
For most Americans, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise an upper consumption limit of 1,500mg of sodium per day.
CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said: “Given the prevalence of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke in America, we need accurate food labels that would ensure that consumers really know what they’re likely to consume. The FDA should define serving sizes to reflect what consumers actually eat, as the law requires, not what the soup industry pretends that they eat.”
The organization also gives the example of cooking oil sprays that give a serving size as a fraction of a second, and therefore can be labeled as fat-free and zero-calorie, even though such sprays are mostly fat.
CSPI calls this “a ridiculously tiny serving size” and points out that a six second spray would contain about 50 calories and 6g of fat.
The group also singled out coffee creamers and ice cream as among the worst offenders in terms of understated serving sizes.
In its letter to Hamburg, CSPI urged the FDA to take enforcement action against manufacturers that label products as containing multiple servings if they are customarily consumed at one time, and to revise the reference amounts that are currently consumed to more accurately reflect current American eating habits.