It wasn’t until the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990

That consumers were able to locate product ingredients. However, the country’s waistline was 14% smaller than it is now. Are food labels doing more harm than good?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a nonprofit health advisory, is taking another look at labeling policies in order to make the facts clearer. They offer a few tips to be aware of the next time you are reading food labels.

Food Fakers – Although the NLEA regulates what nutrition information ought to be displayed and what the format should look like, food companies often hide the ingredients on the back or side of the package. At the same time, they use catchy words such as “healthy”, “smart” and “sensible” on the front which can often be misleading.

Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab studies have shown that consumers tend to lowball the number of calories they believe are in foods whose packaging features words such as low-fat.

This miscalculation causes over-consumption.

“You’ll see no cholesterol labels on products that never had cholesterol in them,” says Marisa Moore, R.D., a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “The food might be filled with sugar or saturated fat, but a person who has high cholesterol might think, Oh, I can eat this, without understanding that saturated fat increases cholesterol levels.”

For more about reading food labels, click here.

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