Kate Williams, RDN
Health professionals spend countless hours explaining the Nutrition Facts panel to clients, providing guidance on nutrient values, and answering patient questions. Even though I am a registered dietitian myself, I’m often on the receiving end of this information when I work with colleagues in the food industry. I routinely learn interesting and helpful information about the food label from nutrition and regulatory experts at Campbell. Despite their diverse backgrounds, Campbell experts agree that when they first started their careers in industry they were surprised by how many regulations govern nutrition labeling and claims and were impressed by Campbell’s commitment to following best practices. Here are some of the things that surprised me most throughout my work with the company:
Nutrition Labeling Experts
Alexandria Hast, PhD, RDN
Senior Nutrition Manager
Laura Masullo, MS, RDN
Scientist, Regulatory Affairs
Serving sizes are standardized
The labeled serving size of a food is based on the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC). These standardized servings help consumers compare similar products within a category like sauces, snacks, or bread. The RACC for foods were recently updated and new ones were added. Laura Masullo, MS, RDN shares, “There are some one-off scenarios that can cause confusion. For example, the RACC for bread is 50g. Based on this RACC, our Pepperidge Farm® 100% Whole Wheat Light Style bread, has a serving size of three slices. A heartier bread like our Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse® line has a serving of only one slice because this is what is closest to the 50g RACC. This could seem like a drastically different serving size, but based on weight they are very similar.” It is also important to remember that since individual nutritional needs vary, serving sizes are only listed to help guide food choices, not to tell a person what they should eat.
Nutrient-related claims have strict requirements
Nutrient and health claims have strict requirements that even health professionals don’t always know. Dr. Alex Hast, RDN admits, “Before I worked in the food industry, I had no idea how many rules there were behind terms like healthy, low calorie, reduced fat and others.” Masullo agrees, “I quickly learned how much work goes into staying up to date on food labeling regulations and guidance documents from the USDA and FDA. These policies are always evolving based on public health needs, so it is essential that we maintain a thorough understanding of the regulations and how they apply to our foods and labeling.”
Protein quality matters
Have you ever wondered why the percent daily value for protein isn’t always listed on the Nutrition Facts label? Or, maybe you noticed that it is listed but seemed lower than you expected? Percent daily value labeling for protein is voluntary, unless you make a claim related to protein. Labeling regulations also take the quality of the protein into consideration for listing the daily value and require careful calculations and laboratory analysis. Dr. Hast explains, “I remember learning about complete proteins, incomplete proteins, and the protein digestibility–corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) in my undergraduate studies. However, I didn’t realize that this score factored into how the percent daily value for protein is reported on a package until I started labeling work.”
Added sugar calculations aren’t always simple
As food packages transition to the new Nutrition Facts panel, added sugar will likely get more attention from consumers. They will know the amount of added sugar in a food product with a quick glance, without needing to review the ingredient list. However, behind the scenes, food manufacturers do careful recipe and labeling reviews to make sure they accurately report information. For example, fruit juice concentrates can count as both added sugar and naturally occurring sugar, depending on their use. Dr. Hast explains, “We count juice concentrate as added sugar when it can’t be reconstituted back to single strength juice with available water in a recipe. In this case, only the amount of sugar beyond what is naturally occurring in single strength juice gets counted as added sugar. The FDA provided guidance documents to help manufacturers perform these calculations and we need to clearly document our work for each product.”
It’s a team effort
Nutrition labeling and communications require experts in food science, nutrition, federal regulations, and food and marketing law. This team effort ensures accurate labeling practices and claims that are truthful and not misleading so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat. Understanding more about labeling regulations can help you better guide clients in making informed food choices. Even experts have more to learn!
Alex’s BioAlex received her PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the Pennsylvania State University. Her research investigated the effects of protein, energy density, and portion size on satiety and energy intake, and her work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals. She also obtained her bachelor’s degree from Penn State and completed a combined internship and master’s degree program at University Hospitals and Case University in Cleveland, Ohio. Alex has several years of experience as a clinical dietitian and is a member of the American Society for Nutrition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association. At Campbell, Alex is a Senior Nutrition Manager responsible for nutrition strategy for the Meals & Beverage businesses including development of nutrition science communications, identification of claim opportunities, and managing nutrition labeling.
Laura’s BioAs a member of the Regulatory Affairs team at Campbell, Laura provides regulatory information to cross-functional teams within the Meals & Beverages businesses. She reviews ingredients and formulas to ensure regulatory compliance and provides guidance on regulatory issues that may impact business plans. In addition, Laura manages the label content process, which includes the creation of nutrition facts panels and ingredient statements, validation of claims and product names, and review and approval of labels. She received her BS in Nutritional Sciences from Rutgers University and her MS in Human Nutrition at the University of Delaware. Laura is a registered dietitian and completed her dietetic internship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Kate’s BioKate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.