Many Food Nutritional Values Mislabeled

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ST. LOUIS, Mo.—New research from Tufts University revealed that some commercially prepared foods contained more calories than indicated in nutritional labeling, which could lead to an increase in obesity.

Researchers evaluated the accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy restaurant foods and frozen meals purchased from supermarkets in Boston and compared with nutrition data stated by the vendor or manufacturer.

Measured energy values of 29 quick-serve and sit-down restaurant foods averaged 18 percent more calories than stated. The measured energy values of 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets averaged 8 percent more calories than stated on the label. Some individual restaurant items contained up to 200 percent of stated values and, in addition, free side dishes increased provided energy to an average of 245 percent of stated values for the entrees they accompanied.

The findings suggest that stated energy contents of reduced-energy meals obtained from restaurants and supermarkets are not consistently accurate, and in this study averaged more than measured values, especially when free side dishes were taken into account. If widespread, this phenomenon could hamper efforts to self-monitor energy intake to control weight, and could also reduce the potential benefit of recent policy initiatives to disseminate information on food-energy content at the point of purchase.

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