It's definitely 298 calories per serving, not 301
September 22, 2008 8:47 AM   Subscribe

How much does the FDA follow up to make sure that nutrition information on products is correct?

There's a lot of food on the market, and companies have a special interest in making it appear as healthy as possible. Is there an outside process that determines that the nutrition information for any particular item is correct, either before or after the food is on the market? If it's after, how likely is it that food with faulty nutrition information could slip through the cracks? If the FDA leaves a bit of this up to individual companies to report, how do they follow up to make sure that it's all correct (are they able to reverse engineer a candy bar, for example, to discover all the reported ingredients)?
posted by SpacemanStix to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here is an interesting article concerning caloric accuracy.
Anecdotal: I've had a few people who were involved in food production tell me that caloric counts can deviate by up to 10% by FDA rules.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2008

I've been curious about this, too. I don't think they do very much to verify accuracy in labeling. I know of three different products at Trader Joe's that had inaccurate nutritional information on their labels. Here's some info on two of the products.
posted by amarynth at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2008

Though I'm not sure about FDA standards, there was recently a show about this on Channel 4 in the UK. It was pretty shocking. Apparently, food labelling standards here allow for a margin of error of 20% and the actual calorie/fat/salt content of many products surpassed this by far.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:02 AM on September 22, 2008

Not really. I work at a food company and the general assumption is that the only way the FDA will ever come down on you is if they're acting on a complaint. There are just too many products for the FDA to check it all out.

Of course, it's way easier to accurately label something and do it right then to wait until you have to do a mandatory recall. We had a problem with a tiny, tiny labeling error and a competitor called the FDA on us. Nightmare!
posted by GilloD at 11:45 AM on September 22, 2008

That's been my secret suspicion, that much of it is self-policed, leading to a temptation to skew the numbers if you think it'll sell more of the product. You might even see future hand slapping by the FDA as a simple cost of doing business, if the financial gain exceeds any penalty.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:30 PM on September 22, 2008

Despite Food Scares, FDA Cuts Inspections [2007]
Former Bush Official Among Critics Who Charge Cuts Threaten Public

Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent....

# There are 12 percent fewer FDA employees in field offices who concentrate on food issues.

# Safety tests for U.S.-produced food have dropped nearly 75 percent, from 9,748 in 2003 to 2,455 last year....

# After the Sept. 11 attacks ... Inspectors and inspections spiked in 2003, but now both have fallen enough to erase the gains.

If that's the situation in the raw food department, imagine how far behind they are elsewhere.
posted by dhartung at 4:59 PM on September 22, 2008

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