Shocking Facts About Food Labels

Number of Calories Listed on Nutritional Facts Might be Wrong?


Are we being fed misinformation about the amount of calories in our food? I was speaking with my friend about changing my eating habits and he directed me to a video on the New York Times called Calorie Detective. The video shows that foods showing the number of calories contained in the product are often incorrect. I had never heard of it, so I watched the five minute clip and what I learned was quite surprising.

Casey Neistat conducted personal research on five food products that he might consume on an average day. After purchasing these items, he had the calorie content tested at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at Saint Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center. The Federal Drug Administration is supposed to oversee that packaged food has the calorie content listed, but it looks as if they haven’t been doing their job.

Neistat reveals “According to the F.D.A. and the city’s [New York] health department, no one verifies the accuracy of these calorie listings. The system essentially runs on an honor system.

This should be an eye opener for those of us who are actually watching what we consume in each meal. The agency responsible for keeping track of how many calories are in our food has apparently left that number to the discretion of the company who distributes said product.

The calories labeled on the food products are calculated by the ingredients individually, and serving size portions (especially at restaurants) can fluctuate. In the clip, Neistat purchased a “Grandmas Original Yogurt Muffin” which claims to contain 640 calories but the test revealed that it actually contained 734.7 calories. Besides the fact that most of us probably didn’t know just how bad a simple muffin could be to our health, the calorie count was off by almost 100 calories. The point Neistat was making was that over time, the incorrect number of extra calories will add up and so does the accumulation of excess weight.

How many of us have grabbed a pre-made sandwich at the store? Neistat chose such a product that actually had the word “healthy” on the package and stated that it was vegan friendly. The package displayed that the food contained 228 calories but the test showed that it contained almost double that number, 548 calories. This makes me wonder just how many other foods we consume are mislabeled; I hope we are considering this issue to be a problem.

There have been other studies that concluded the same information as Neistat has found in his video. There are several factors that can change how calories are calculated in any particular food or food product. At, they have tackled four interesting points to be made in regard to calorie calculations by the FDA; what sugars are composed of, incorrect calorie count (especially for restaurant websites), low sodium chemicals, and phytonutrients. (See full article here — Food Identity Theft)

When we are trying to watch our caloric intake and choose to buy something like a frozen “healthy” meal, we would expect that label to be correct. Well think again because according to AARP, a Lean Cuisine meal could have an extra 28% more calories than stated on the label. In perspective, if someone was in the Weight Watchers program and they are supposed to be keeping track of their points per meal, they would be off for that particular meal.

If the FDA doesn’t properly label something as basic as the number of calories in our food, then how can we keep true to a diet? Other than eating only raw produce, this makes it impossible to stick to an actual calorie count for our daily nutrition. Could this simple mislabeling of calories cause something over the long run such as obesity? Even if we are writing down the numbers and reading the Nutritional Facts, we could sill be adding a pounds per week without knowing why.

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