CSPI urges revision of ‘understated’ serving size information

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

CSPI urges revision of ‘understated’ serving size information
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Margaret Hamburg, urging a revision of serving size regulations.

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.

Related topics: Regulation, Food safety and labeling

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People will eat

Posted by JC,

Those folks who are in tune with their diet and eat appropriate serving sizes shouldn't be 'penalized' per say for what 'the average' consumer is eating. Instead of making this an issue, more education should be done on consuming the appropriate serving sizes and not over- indulging. I truly believe most people are smart enough to read the label and measure out the proper serving. The problem lies in the desire to follow through on the right diet and eat appropriately. We've become an overindulgent society and we consume way too much of everything.

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The current system is effective

Posted by Michael C,

By using a one cup measurement or some other common measure consumers can compare several different brands and all will have the same unit as one serving. If the unit of measurement is the size of the container used, and the size of the container varies from company to company then the serving size measurement is only good for one can of soup. People are not stupid, and it seems rather insulting to assume that they are. It is possible to read the label and multiply to get to the amount the you want eat, even if that differs from the stated serving size.

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Do it the right way

Posted by Scott,

It needs to be done realistically with actual science and common sense behind it instead of idealistically. Also, instead of making new regulations they should review and fix, where necessary, the existing ones.

While they are at it, they need to fix some of the Standards of Identities. For example, French Dressing has to have a minimum of 35% fat per the government or it has to be called French Style Dressing. Lower fat versions taste just as good, are healthier but cannot be simply called French Dressing.

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