Carbohydrate Awareness Council to Tackle Low-Carb Labeling

With millions of Americans attempting to lose weight by eating a diet low in carbohydrate, food manufacturers are introducing hundreds of new products touted as "low-carb". Foods typically shunned by low-carb dieters - everything from cookies, candy and bread to muffins, bagels and pancake syrup, now have alternatives labeled as "low carb" foodstuffs.

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FALLS CHURCH, VA (PRWEB) December 17, 2003

With millions of Americans attempting to lose weight by eating a diet low in carbohydrate, food manufacturers are introducing hundreds of new products touted as "low-carb". Foods typically shunned by low-carb dieters - everything from cookies, candy and bread to muffins, bagels and pancake syrup, now have alternatives labeled as "low carb" foodstuffs.

However, as a recent USA Today article noted, many dieters are frustrated by their failure to lose weight while consuming many of these foods. Dr. Gil Wilshire, MD, FACOG, President and Chief Scientific Officer at the Carbohydrate Awareness Council (CAC) notes, "Not all foods labeled as 'low-carb' are truly low in carbohydrate content. Labels that encourage consumers to ignore the total carbohydrate content and instead count only 'net carbs' is confusing. Consumers may end up eating too many total carbohydrates when they rely on 'net carbs' alone as their measure of carbohydrate consumption throughout the day and ignore calories."

Many new products have labels that encourage dieters to count only 'net carbs' rather than total carbohydrate content. The explanation provided to consumers is that the ingredients, often fiber, sugar alcohols and glycerin, do not have the same impact on blood sugar levels and insulin response as traditional ingredients.

The CAC is currently evaluating each of the various ingredients used in the manufacture of low-carb foods and determining whether the advice to consumers to deduct these are valid. "Where the scientific evidence supports deducting the carbohydrates from such ingredients, we will take the position that such deductions are advisable." said Dr. Wilshire. "However, where the evidence suggests otherwise, we will present this information to consumers so they have a reliable guide in choosing low-carb foods."

The issue of deducting certain classes of carbohydrate is hotly debated amongst those in the low-carb sector. "If it's not a protein, fat, water, vitamin or mineral, guess what? It's a carbohydrate" says Chip Marsland of Betafoods in Natick, Massachusetts. "Low carb dieting is a legitimate way to lose weight and tone the body. Athletes have been practicing this for decades. But it won't work if one ignores the total carbohydrates being eaten. Consumers must educate themselves and read the total carbohydrate listed in the Nutrition Facts table, not the claims made on the front of a package." Betafoods is one of many food manufacturers who are labeling their 'low-carb' food products without allowances to deduct certain classes of carbohydrates.

"When we have a set of guidelines in place, many of the issues our sector faces right now will be settled. It is obvious that not all of the low-carb foods in the marketplace have confusing labels," said Regina Schumann, the Chief Operating Officer of the CAC. "In fact, a good number of products have labels that consumers can trust. BetaFoods is just one of those companies. At the Council, our position is that the industry is obligated to provide consumers with accurate labels so they can make informed choices. To establish guidelines that are accurate means we must look at the science and see how these carbohydrates are metabolized in the body."

Right now, the council is working with regulatory agencies, the industry and consumers to develop guidelines and standards, which will result in accurate labeling practices throughout the industry. "The FDA has in place regulations manufacturers are expected to follow in their labeling of foods. Any changes to the regulations that we feel are necessary for the future must happen in the context of our compliance with the existing regulations as we seek to identify areas we need change." said Ms. Schumann. "It is simply counter-productive to our future to remain on the path we are currently on where some manufacturers are mislabeling products. This is the primary reason we have scheduled government regulatory officials to speak at our upcoming Executive Summit."

One initiative of the council is the CarbAware™ Seal of Assurance, which will be displayed on food packages that meet the CAC "accurate labeling" guidelines. The seal will rollout in January 2004 on Chip's Chips™ Cheese Thins and Chip's Chips Snackers™.    

"Unfortunately, many of the products currently available in the marketplace will not meet the guidelines," Ms. Schumann noted. "The seal is the right step forward for the 'low-carb' sector - a mark of confidence for consumers." This she says is what consumers expect from the growing industry - labels that communicate which foods are truly low in carbohydrate so consumers can make educated decisions. "Our unwavering mission is built on the rock-solid foundation of honesty and scientific evidence for foods that bear the CarbAware™ seal on their label."

The finalization of the industry guidelines draft will be one of the major accomplishments at the CarbAware™ Executive Summit on January 14-15, 2004 in the Washington D.C. area, where the CAC is headquartered. Industry executives from across the sector and representatives from governmental regulatory agencies are expected participate, as well as a number of large food industry producers who are launching products in the coming months.

"We are tackling the most pressing issues of the industry at the Summit," said Dr. Wilshire, "This sector of the food industry cannot have continued strong growth if consumers are confused and frustrated, nor if governmental regulatory agencies see evidence of pervasive dishonesty and misleading statements. The guidelines we develop with the help of science, the government, and industry will enable consumers to recognize snake oil from honestly-labeled foods in the marketplace."

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http://www.carbaware.org


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