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There are more label changes on the way. More and more products on the shelves are featuring the changes. The one change that doesn’t make sense to me is the required inclusion of vitamin D. It has basically taken the place of vitamin A on the label. Previously, vitamin D only had to be listed if it was added to a product, like milk, cereal, yogurt, and other foods fortified with vitamin D or if a claim was made on the label. Other than a very few foods that contain it naturally, these type foods are basically

An example of the new food label, from a package of eggs

the only ones that contain vitamin D. Most foods you’ll see will have vitamin D listed as 0%. I have no idea what purpose making vitamin D required on the label is supposed to serve, considering that it’s in so few foods and most of the ones containing it have it added, which in that case it’s supposed to be listed anyway. Following is my wish list for food labels and what I’d like to see included. I think my ideas make a lot more sense than the one to make vitamin D required on most labels.

  • Include nutrients that affect iron intake on the label. If iron is such an important nutrient, why not include the percentages of other nutrients that affect its absorption? Vitamin E and iron seem to have an opposing relationship, where an excess of one causes a deficiency of the other. Balancing these two nutrients is very important. If consumers could see the percentages of both of these on the label, they can make an informed decision about purchasing the product or maybe purchasing something along with it to help create a better balance between the two. Vitamin C, which has also been removed from the label, promotes greater absorption of iron. Someone trying to improve her iron status would probably like to make a decision on a product based on both its iron and vitamin C content. If both are present, she can expect to get more iron out of it, provided other factors that inhibit its absorption are not in play.

  • Return to the requirement to include vitamin A on the label and not include vitamin D unless it’s been added. More and more people take mega doses of vitamin D through supplementation. What’s important for these people is to make sure they get a good balance of nutrients that compete or work with vitamin D, especially vitamin A. Naturally, people can consume plenty of whole foods like dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, mango, papaya, pumpkin, and carrots for the beta carotene and certain animal foods for “real” vitamin A. However, it can be harder to determine the vitamin A content of prepared or packaged foods if it’s not listed. Sometimes, it’s nice to reach for something convenient, and having vitamin A on the label can help a person determine how much vitamin A the product will contribute to what the person needs to balance his vitamin D intake. Again, vitamin D is in so few foods naturally and has to be listed anyway when it’s been added. It really makes no sense to make this a required item on most food labels.

  • Include copper and zinc on the label, especially in foods that have a significant percentage of either or both of these. I’ve discovered for my own health that having these two minerals in balance is very important. I can only imagine that the health of many others can be improved by paying more attention to the balance between these two minerals. I had no idea of the copper and zinc content of foods like cashews, sunflower seeds, and oysters. All of these foods are extremely high in one of these two nutrients, and consuming these and others like them in excess can really knock these two minerals out of balance.

  • Include the source or starting ingredient for food items like distilled vinegar and xanthan gum. Allergens and gluten can be used to make these products. In the case of distilled vinegar, the distillation process is supposed to prevent the allergenic proteins from making it into the final product. Xanthan gum is formed by a certain strain of bacteria. The bacteria are fed a carbohydrate source, and this source can be an allergen like soy, dairy, or wheat. Supposedly, the final product contains no allergenic protein. I’ve had reactions to products containing distilled vinegar or xanthan gum. I believe there are enough traces of allergenic protein in such products to cause a reaction in those who are extremely sensitive. Including information about the source ingredients on the labels of food products that contain these ingredients would make finding safe foods much easier.

I really think making the above changes to food labels, if feasible, would be much more helpful than the current changes being made. The vast majority of foods don’t contain vitamin D naturally, and these would just list 0% for the nutrient. Also, since iron is considered to be important to include, it would be helpful to know about nutrients that affect its absorption and utilization, like vitamin C and vitamin E. In addition, other nutrients that play a huge part in good health when in balance (and poor health when not in balance) such as copper and zinc would be much better candidates for inclusion since they’re in many more foods than vitamin D. Including information about the source ingredients for products like distilled vinegar and xanthan gum would make it easier for those with food allergies to make an informed decision about the foods they plan to purchase and consume. All of these changes would make for a better and more helpful food label.

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