Jess Parsons

Jess Parsons

Posted February 19, 2011

Published in Food

  • digg
  • Delicious
  • Furl
  • reddit
  • blinklist
  • Technorati
  • stumbleupon

Truth and Justice in Food Labelling: for real people

Read More: additives, animal foods, calories, customer, Dr McDougall, fats, food labels, honest, ingredients, Jeff Novick, plant foods, readable, salts, sugars, water

Get VegSource Alerts Get VegSource Alerts

First Name


Email This Story to a Friend

I challenged health advocates to join a push against food advertising.   How can we start?

I want simple food labels.  I want to see just what is in the package.  I want my grandmother to be able to read it, or any 11 year old.

I want stark honesty that leads consumers to reject fake foods because the truth is in their face.

Now I've answered my own challenge by translating my dream onto the page.  I will send it directly to PCRM, the creators of the Power Plate, and Center for Science in the Public Interest for consideration and review in support of their nutrition action goals.

Power Labels for Real Choice

Would you like all the loaves of bread on the shelf to have a large black and white label on the front like this?


Label Explained



The new labels are:

  • Readable - in language, size and layout.  If there are 25 additives, anyone can see it.
  • Honest - if there are 4 different kinds of added sugars, they must be labelled and grouped together
  • Informative - if those 4 sugars make sugar the highest calorie item, then the sugars category must come first. 

We need a revolution

Currently, food labels are deceptive, so we need expert advice to translate them.  I'm glad we have Jeff Novick and Dr McDougall to help.  But it is too hard and most people never do it.

We must demand labels that anyone can read.  The labels must serve the customer and not the seller.

These labels are a concept and a first draft.  If you have suggestions, please comment.

And if these food labels would help you, please share this post.




4 Comments | Leave a comment


I agree with your sentiments but I have an alternative....Actually Europe has an alternative. If you measure in weight of an ingrdient against 100 of that weight - in europe this is grams and 100 grams then suddenly the mist lifts and you see every type of food can easily be compared regardless of what it is on the macro-nutrient level. 30g of sugar tells you that the food is 30% sugar and given the choice you can prefer the food that is 20g or 20% of sugar. Ditto with fat, transfat, protein, fiber etc.


Hi Clive,

Thanks for commenting! I agree that a consistent percentage makes things clear, but food labelling is already done by weight.

I chose % by calories because (as Dr Mcdougall and others point out):

- our recommended food intake is in calories (not grams) and
- our recommended nutrient (fat, sugar) intake is by percentage of total calories

So this is what we need to know. Out of 100 calories, how much is fat, sugar, etc?

Your food could be quite lowfat by weight due to water weight (milk is a great example of this illusion) but very high percentage of calories from fat (cff).


Hi Jess,

I see that you are not very conversant with the European Example.

The European system is by weight not by percentage!!!!

Please take the time to check it out, or even take a visit to the UK and immerse yourself in it to see the true power of it.

Having lived in the UK and the US, and travelled a lot, I understand the everyday benefits and disadvantages of both for nutrition's sake and for the public.

I don't agree with using percentage of some theoretical calories allowance. Everybody needs a different amount of calories, % of 2000 calories is not useful, everybody needs a different percentage of Protein: Carbs: Fats.

Answer me this, do you know how many calories do you need this week? If you do not then you are guessing, and if you eat over by 100 calories a day (two cookies) then get ready to enjoy the 10Lbs of extra fat your body will accumulate over the next year.

Anyway I digress, back to the European and US labeling system differences...

In the US there is something called the "Serving"? I'm going to hold myself back here, it is unhelpful, well more like unstandardized....ok it is deliberately used to deceive the public and should be abolished!

OK you can't say something like that and not evidence it.... Sorry it's my own article but it will help you understand.

The public do not walk around with the weight of fiber (protein/carbs/fats) they need to consume in their heads. (Hang on let me test it…, Jose how much fiber do you need a day?....He just told me he doesn’t eat fiber!). So supplying them the weight and expecting them to "do the mathematics" in their heads is blatantly unreasonable. (see below).

Calories consumed does not equate to calories absorbed, stomachs are inefficient. Let’s take your example of the milk...all that water is going to flush the fat through quite quickly, eat some bran flakes and the fiber is going to absorb much of the fat and carry it through undigested.

Using Calories will encourage the Fat is evil brigade. I think you will find that the tide is turning on this idea as science discovers more and more that Fat is Good (with the definitive exception of hydrogenated, or trans-fat which are evil), and actually ...sugar is evil all along and saturated fats got the rap for sugars evils!, ...well that’s life!.

With the UK labeling I was so informed that I could cut through all the advertising lies, OK this ice cream is fat free....look at the sugar 44g (per 100g) that’s 44% of the weight of what I'm about to eat is I'm informed, and I could easily do the math and i can easily compare to a lump of cheese, a biscuit, a fruit drink, a banana. I was learning the intrinsic macronutrient values of every food!

Now let me try the same on US label i just grabbed from the cupboard: a can of spaghetti (emergency for my son) it has 15g of sugar per serving. What does that mean? Oh the can has "about 2 servings" that bull I always have a can as one serving don't you? Anyway about 2 ... so 2.2 to 1.8 are both "about" that’s somewhere between 27g to 33g of sugar. Let pretend its 30g exact, but is this high or low. Now I'm going to have to find out what percentage it is....the can has 252g so 30/252 which off the top of my head is.......................................................11.9% ok i cheated I used a calculator! Now just need to do the same for alternative meals and I can then decide if it's too much sugar!

BTW the Carbs were 36g which is 12% of a 2000 calorie diet, just need to remember that and find the same number on every meal i eat throughout the day and.....wait a min who decided the percentage of the 2000 that should be carbs? Depending on who I am nutritionals recommend from 30% up to 70%. Ok back to that 2000 that needs 2000, i know for a fact it's not me.... shall I use the Harris Benedict or the Cunningham equation, what the hell I'll use both and take the average. Then let me see I'm cycling twice a week at about 20mph average on the flats, swimming twice a week, using some rough calorie burn charts ....I get to 3429!!!!!! OK there is error in this number but nothing like trying to use the 2000 calories.

Right get my calculator and that means the 12% is actually 7%, now I just have to keep doing the math all day long until I get to 100% and then I can stop eating!

Back to the UK example no mathematics boom 11.9% given, a quick glance at a competing can of beans which has 25g (i.e. 25%) and I can see that I've made not too bad a choice.... over time I learn to aim for sugar levels of around 10% occasionally up to say 18% that seems to parallel the calories well and helps me to avoid processed food where they chuck salt and sugar in to make up for the lack of taste.

Don't take it from me go to the UK and try to shop intelligently, I promise you won't need your calculator.

Best Regards
Clive Griffiths BSc, A.C.A. Member of the Institute of Optimal Nutrition
"A new generation of vitamins"


Hi Clive,

I was born in the USA and now live in New Zealand and we use the grams percentage labelling here too. I agree that the "serving" is a particularly deceptive concept.

Again, I agree with experts who value food by calories (the way we eat it) and not by grams or kilograms.

Thanks for your contribution!
Jessica Parsons

Leave a comment