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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
the Estimated Energy Requirements established in the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report on Dietary Reference Intake values for macronutrients (IOM, 2002). However, the committee did not see a practical way in which the Nutrition Facts panel could incorporate all the % DV figures that would correspond to the energy needs of children at different ages (IOM, 2002; USDA, 2003a). Therefore, a recommendation to develop a specific % DV for children and youth based on age, gender, and three activity levels is currently not feasible.
FDA should establish mandatory guidelines for the display of totalcalorie content on the Nutrition Facts panel regarding products such asvending-machine items, single-serving snack foods, and ready-to-eat foodspurchased at convenience stores—typically consumed in their entirety onone eating occasion. Although many prepackaged, ready-to-eat foods are provided in package sizes that may typically be consumed all at once, the nutrition label offers information only on one serving, as defined by the FDA standard serving size.
Thus, although the number of servings per package is also given, the purchaser must calculate the nutritional content of a multiple-serving portion that may be consumed at one sitting. For example, soft drinks are often sold in 20-ounce containers and are labeled as containing 2.5 servings. Because many consumers undoubtedly consume the entire 20 ounces and not precisely 8 ounces (one serving), which represents only 40 percent of the entire product, it would be easier for them to know the total nutritional value if this information was provided directly on the label.
Finally, the Nutrition Facts panel may be modified in other ways to enhance readability and consumer understanding (Kristal et al., 2001). Consideration should be given to the selection, organization, and display of nutrients to maximize the positive message and educational benefit conveyed by the label in order to assist consumers in making wise choices within a healthful diet while also serving to remind them to limit calories and other nutrients (e.g., cholesterol, fat) and thereby reduce their risk of chronic diseases related to obesity (IOM, 2004). In summary, the FDA,relevant industries, and other groups should conduct consumer research onthe use of the nutrition label, on restaurant menu labeling, and on how toenhance or adapt the FGP or develop a new food-guidance system.
Nutrient Claims and Health Claims
A nutrient claim is a food-package statement consistent with FDA guidelines that characterizes the level of a nutrient in a food. Depending on the claim, the level is usually categorized as “free,” “high,” or “low.” With a few exceptions, a nutrient-content claim may be made by manufacturers only if a DV has been identified for that nutrient and the FDA has established, by regulation, the criteria that a food must meet in order to list the