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About Nutrition Notes

Michelle Albee Matto Nutrition Notes Blog offers insight, news and analysis on nutrition, as well as food labeling. The blog is written by Michelle Albee Matto, who worked in IDFA's regulatory department for eight years, most recently as assistant director for nutrition and labeling.

Michelle now works exclusively for IDFA as a nutrition and labeling consultant. Contact her at amfoodnutrition@gmail.com.

Michelle is a registered dietician and holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition from Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Society for Nutrition Education.

Nutrition Notes

  • Front-of-Pack Labeling, Around the World

    August 02, 2013

    Any of you who sell products in other countries know that food and beverage labels can look very different from country to country. But one thing has been popping up on food labels globally, including here in the United States—front-of-pack nutrition labeling. While Sweden’s keyhole symbol has been in place for many years, Australia and the United Kingdom have both recently adopted voluntary programs.   Australia Australia recently approved a new front-of-pack labeling system, which will rate the nutritional value of foods and beverages, with up to five stars and icons regarding calories, saturated fat, sodium, sugar and one positive nutrient. This will be a voluntary system, but if after two years the government feels that not enough foods are displaying the symbol, the program could be made mandatory. The criteria for front-of-pack labeling for dairy products is not finalized following concerns that the emphasis on saturated fat content can make yogurt and cheese look less healthy and could discourage people from choosing these dairy foods. United Kingdom This summer, the United Kingdom, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, has finalized a voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labeling icon, which is a hybrid of traffic light symbols and quantitative values for certain nutrients. The symbol declares the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt per serving, and also colors each of these nutrients with red, amber or green based on the level of these nutrients in the food. Sweden/Denmark/Norway The keyhole symbol has been used in Sweden since 1989 ... Read More
  • Dairy Nutrition for Older Americans

    July 26, 2013
    I often talk about dairy and kids, especially related to school food. But what about the other end of the lifespan? As the American population gets older and older, we are beginning to see some dairy products that are designed especially for them. Although the decrease in milk consumption is smaller for Americans over 50 when compared to younger people, older Americans drink less milk overall, and the nutrients that come from dairy may be even more important for these folks. Many older adults are actually undernourished, lacking many vital nutrients. With the wide range of nutrients that dairy provides, milk, cheese, yogurt and frozen treats are great options to help bridge the nutrient gap. Older adults are at serious risk of losing both bone and muscle tissue, so the calcium, vitamin D and protein provided by dairy can be the perfect addition to a meal or eaten as a snack between meals. So to get all the nutrients that seniors need, nutrient-rich dairy is a perfect fit. One product that is taking advantage of the benefits of dairy is Thrive, a frozen dairy dessert that is designed as a nutritional supplement that is similar to fluid dairy-based nutritional supplements used by many seniors. What dairy products do you think are ideally suited to meeting the nutritional needs of older adults? Read More
  • Is Obesity a Disease?

    July 18, 2013
    Last month, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially declared obesity a disease. While this action doesn’t immediately change any governmental or private programs, it could be a significant step toward a widespread change in interpretation of obesity in public health. Previously, there was no consistent AMA classification of obesity, with AMA policies describing obesity as a “disorder,” “chronic condition,” “major health concern” or “public health problem.” The designation of obesity as a disease was actually against the recommendations of the AMA’s Council on Scientific Affairs, which had issued a report stating that there is a lack of evidence about a direct relationship between obesity and mortality or morbidity, as well as flaws in the Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement commonly used to define obesity. The report from the Council on Scientific Affairs presented both pros and cons for defining obesity as a disease, with the final recommendation that obesity continue to be considered a “major public health program” instead of a disease. Arguments for calling obesity a disease included the possibility of increased funding for obesity prevention programs and better reimbursement for treatments. The report’s arguments against a disease definition included reducing patient motivation to eat healthier and be more active and an increased reliance on drug treatments for obesity. The report also expressed concern that funds could be used for research into treatments, rather than public health prevention efforts. And of course, with any major announcement in public health, especially one related to obesity, there is some debate about whether this ... Read More
  • 2015 Dietary Guidelines: Another Step

    July 17, 2013
    We’ve taken another step toward 2015! The first meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was held on June 14-15 in Bethesda, Md. While we’d learned about the Advisory Committee members, this was the first chance to see the group working together and learn about the priority areas that they are considering for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Committee members were divided into three work groups, which will be writing nutrition questions to help focus the committee’s deliberations over the next several months. Just the focus areas of each work group give some insight into the possible content of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report and the eventual content of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Work group number one is considering the area of the food environment, sustainability of the food supply and food systems, including agriculture and food production. Work group number two will be focusing on dietary patterns, looking at people’s behaviors, like choosing plant-based diets, viewing television viewing and eating or not eating breakfast, and their impact on health. Work group three will be looking at topics that are more traditionally addressed through the Dietary Guidelines: the impact of foods and nutrients on health. While we don’t know exactly what the committee will discuss over the next couple of years, the topics of the three work groups do give us an idea of the areas they will be considering: sustainability, nutrients of concern, food groups to encourage and the healthiest types of eating patterns. The next meeting of ... Read More
  • Competitive Foods Rule to Allow Many Dairy Products

    June 28, 2013
    Less than three months after receiving hundreds of thousands of public comments on the proposed nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages in schools, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an interim final rule to finalize those nutrition standards. And these standards keep dairy in a strong position as competitive products in schools. Milk and dairy products are specifically allowed as competitive foods, which are foods and beverages sold at schools during the school day but not as part of the reimbursable school breakfast or lunch. This list could include yogurt parfaits, ice cream sandwiches or milk sold individually. The rule set nutritional limits set for saturated fat, trans fat, total sugars and calories, but these limits will still allow for a wide range of dairy products to be available to school children. A brief summary chart is available here. Several dairy products, both standardized and non-standardized, will be able to be available in schools when the nutrition rules go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year, including:
    • Low-fat or fat-free unflavored milk;
    • Fat-free flavored milk;
    • Reduced-fat cheese snacks, including part skim mozzarella cheese;
    • Low-fat ice cream novelties;
    • Frozen dairy desserts;
    • Frozen fruit juice bars;
    • Low-fat yogurt; and
    • Cultured dairy snacks.
    The interim final rule also clarified that non-nutritive sweeteners are allowed by the USDA rule, although schools could set stricter standards. USDA will accept comments on the interim rule through October 28, 2013. View the USDA infographic here. Read More
 
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