Tear Here

By Dean L. Jones

While looking at a tiny single serve packet of Heinz Tomato Ketchup (0.32-Ounce), I wondered what it really meant when it says ‘Tear Here’.  The tomato ketchup ingredients listed on the packet state: tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, natural flavors (bell pepper concentrate), onion powder, dehydrated jalapenos.

For all intents and purposes, one ketchup packet is a tablespoon (3 teaspoons), comprised mostly as carbohydrates coming from added sugars, rather than dietary fiber.  The 3rd and 4th ingredients are added sugars, which is the equivalent of being 4 grams or one heaping teaspoon of processed sugar.  From now, when you tear open a ketchup packet, perceive its’ miniature size being over 33% processed sugar.

On the subject of talking salt, each ketchup packet has 170 mg. of sodium, which is about 8% of the daily value a body should consume.  Getting 8% of sodium from a petite packet is a large dose, particularly since there is no value of nutrients, plus, most people use multiple ketchup packets on their fries.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to update the Nutrition Facts label found on American sold food packages.  It has been 20 years since the FDA required improved labeling to help consumers make informed food choices and maintain healthy dietary practices.  A couple of proposed changes that caught my eye include the information about “added sugars.”

Where the current label requires declaration of ‘Sugars,’ the proposed rule would require declaration of showing ‘Added Sugars,’ indented under Sugars.  This way it is easier to tell how much sugar is naturally occurring and how much has been added to the product.  Many human health groups like the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization believe it is important to decrease the daily intake of added sugars.

Another proposed change in labeling is to show on packaged foodstuff that are typically eaten in one sitting be labeled as a single serving and that the calorie and nutrient information be declared for the entire package.  For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda, typically consumed in a single sitting, would be labeled as one serving rather than as more than one serving.

For certain packages that are larger and could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers would have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calories and nutrient information.  [Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream.]  The change will help consumers see how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.  The more transparency in foodstuff packaging, the easier it will be to stay SugarAlert!.

Dean Jones, Ethics Advocate, Southland Partnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), contributes his view on health attributes derived from processed foodstuff items.