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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

FDA to revise nutrition facts label

Friday, 24 January 2014 04:23 Published in Health & Fitness
WASHINGTON (AP) — Those nutrition labels on the back of food packages may soon become easier to read.
 
The Food and Drug Administration says knowledge about nutrition has evolved over the last 20 years, and the labels need to reflect that.
 
As the agency considers revisions, nutritionists and other health experts have their own wish list of desired changes.
 
The number of calories should be more prominent, they say, and the amount of added sugar and percentage of whole wheat in the food should be included. They also want more clarity on how serving sizes are defined.
 
"There's a feeling that nutrition labels haven't been as effective as they should be," says Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "When you look at the label, there are roughly two dozen numbers of substances that people aren't intuitively familiar with."
 
For example, he says, most of the nutrients are listed in grams, the metric system's basic unit of mass. Jacobson says people don't really understand what a gram is.
 
Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, says 20 years ago "there was a big focus on fat, and fat undifferentiated." Since then, health providers have focused more on calories and warned people away from saturated and trans fats more than all fats. Trans fats were separated out on the label in 2006.
 
The nutrition facts label "is now 20 years old, the food environment has changed and our dietary guidance has changed," says Taylor, who was at the agency in the early 1990s when the FDA first introduced the label at the behest of Congress. "It's important to keep this updated so what is iconic doesn't become a relic."
 
The FDA has sent guidelines for the new labels to the White House, but Taylor would not estimate when they might be released. The FDA has been working on the issue for a decade, he said.
 
There's evidence that more people are reading the labels in recent years.
 
According to an Agriculture Department study released this month, a greater percentage of adults reported using the nutrition facts panel and other claims on food packages "always or most of the time" in 2009 and 2010 compared with two years earlier.
 
The USDA study said 42 percent of working adults used the panel always or most of the time in 2009 and 2010, up from 34 percent. Older adults used it 57 percent of the time during that period, up from 51 percent.
 
One expected change in the label is to make the calorie listing more prominent, and Regina Hildwine of the Grocery Manufacturers Association said that could be useful to consumers. Her group represents the nation's largest food companies.
 
Hildwine said FDA also has suggested that it may be appropriate to remove the "calories from fat" declaration on the label.
 
It's not yet clear what other changes the FDA could decide on. Nutrition advocates are hoping the agency adds a line for sugars and syrups that are not naturally occurring in foods and drinks and are added when they are processed or prepared. Right now, some sugars are listed separately among the ingredients and some are not.
 
It may be difficult for the FDA to figure out how to calculate added sugars, however. Food manufacturers are adding naturally occurring sugars to their products so they can label them as natural — but the nutrition content is no different.
 
Other suggestions from health advocates:
 
— Add the percentage of whole wheat to the label. Many manufacturers will label products "whole wheat" when there is really only a small percentage of it in the food.
 
— Clearer measurements. Jacobson of CSPI and others have suggested that the FDA use teaspoons, as well as grams, for added sugars, since consumers can envision a teaspoon.
 
— Serving sizes that make sense. There's no easy answer, but health experts say that single-size servings that are clearly meant to be eaten in one sitting will often list two or three servings on the label, making the calorie and other nutrient information deceptive. FDA said last year that it may add another column to the labels, listing nutrition information per serving and per container. The agency may also adjust recommended serving sizes for some foods.
 
— Package-front labeling. Beyond the panel on the back, nutrition experts have pushed for labels on the package front for certain nutrients so consumers can see them more easily. The FDA said several years ago it would issue guidelines for front of pack labeling, but later said it would hold off to see whether the industry could create its own labels.
 
Tracy Fox, a Washington-based nutrition consultant, says clearer information is needed to balance the billions of dollars a year that the food industry spends on food marketing.
 
"There's a lot of information there, it's messy," she says. "There may be a way to call out certain things and put them in context."

Boehner tells Leno life's too good to be president

Friday, 24 January 2014 03:58 Published in National News
   BURBANK, Calif. (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner says he likes his life too much to run for president.
   Making his first appearance Thursday night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Boehner was asked by the host whether he'd ever consider seeking the nation's highest office.
   "No," Boehner said immediately. "No?" Leno said. "No," Boehner repeated.
   "Listen, I like to play golf," Boehner said by way of explanation. "I like to cut my own grass. You know, I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. And I'm not giving that up to be the President of the United States."
   The line got a round of applause from the Burbank, Calif. audience.
   Boehner also got a laugh when he was asked if GOP infighting in Washington is the worst that he's seen.
   "Oh, no, it's, well, maybe it is," Boehner said. "Probably. Yeah, probably."
   But he went on to downplay the conflict.
   "The funny thing about the so called infighting is that we agree on all the goals," the speaker said. "We think Obamacare is bad for the country. We think we shouldn't spend more than what we bring in. We think the President is ignoring the law. It's all a fight over tactics. It's not over what our goals are."

Art Museum audit finds no major problems

Friday, 24 January 2014 03:53 Published in Local News
   The St. Louis Art Museum is well managed and fiscally sound.  That's what auditors are reporting to the St. Louis Zoo-Museum District, the body that oversees property tax disbursements to five, regional cultural institutions.  
   The results of the Art Museum audit are a far cry from the last two audits commissioned by the District.  A 2011 audit of the St. Louis Science Center pointed out five-figure executive bonuses and too many vice presidents.  A 2012 audit of the History Museum raised concerns over a questionable land deal and vacation buy-back for the former museum president.
   By contrast, auditors found no major problems with the way the Art Museum is run. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the examination of the Art Museum revealed an institution with a clear chain of command among its several boards, a litany of policies to account for sales and donations, and enough cash in the bank to pay its bills 16 times over.  
   The Zoo-Museum District oversees the disbursement of about $70 million in property taxes to the Missouri Botanical Garden, History Museum, St. Louis Science Center, Zoo and Art Museum. 
 
 

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