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New, More Accurate Serving Sizes on Labels Are Going to Scare You

Will anyone heed the harsh realities of these new labels set forth by the FDA, which disclose the full amount of fat and sugar in your favorite foods?
August 27, 2015, 10:00pm
Photo via Flickr user Austin Kirk

Real talk: Is a half-cup portion of your favorite kind of ice cream—patiently waiting in your freezer for you to get home tonight and devour it while revisiting Child's Play 2—ever enough?

Of course not. You'll probably plow through that meager amount in the time it takes for you to find the right channel. You know this, we know this, and now apparently the the US Food and Drug Administration knows this, and they're planning to update the serving sizes of your dear old friend Cherry Garcia to better reflect the fact that you will probably finish the whole damn pint in one sitting.

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Will anyone actually heed the realities of these new labels, which disclose the full amount of fat and sugar within those luscious frozen pints of heaven? Or will we use them rationalize our gluttonous ways? (Hey man, this must mean that everyone is also eating full pints, too! So it's OK!)

Harvard's Behavioral Science and Regulation Group is concerned that these new nutrition fact labels, which better reflect Americans' notoriously indulgent habits of eating large amounts of food in one sitting, could be endorsing such habits. The argument is that consumers will perceive these new serving sizes as normal, and eat more, and not less, of their junk food of choice.

READ: Will Alcohol Nutrition Labels Actually Make Anyone Drink Less?

Their claim coincides with a new study by researchers at New York University's Stern School of Business published last week in the journal Appetite. "The proposed Nutrition Facts label is intended to help consumers make healthier consumption decisions, but the current research suggests that it may backfire, leading consumers to serve more to themselves and others," wrote one of the researchers for the study in a report on Dispatch.

The last time that the nutrition labels on food was changed was 20 years ago, and the change was based on data from a survey that was conducted between 1977 to 1988. While there's no denying the fact that eating habits have changed since then, these new labels are simply following the law set by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, which requires that serving sizes accurately reflect consumption patterns.

Now, will these new labels ultimately work? Who knows, but you can always just try putting down the spoon before you reach the bottom of the pint.