Q.  How accurate are the calorie counts on nutrition facts labels? What about the nutrition information at restaurants? Is anyone checking them for accuracy?

A.  Consumers are often surprised–and dismayed–to learn that the information on nutrition facts labels is not nearly as accurate or reliable as they imagined.   Part of this is built into the system.   The FDA allows manufacturers and packagers a surprisingly wide margin of error–the information can be off  by 20% in either direction and still be in compliance.   For example, if the nutrition facts label says that a food contains 300 calories, it may actually contain anywhere from 240 to 360 calories.And, of course, sometimes the labels are out of compliance.  Although it would technically be up to the FDA (in the case of packaged foods) and the states (in the case of restaurants) to enforce the laws, you can imagine that the budget for spot-checking the accuracy of this information is fairly small.  When errors come to light, it’s usually due to independent investigations.READ MORE

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