Weight vs volume on food

Written by  on June 19, 2012

So the Wall Street Journal published an article a while back about the push to have the measurement units on nutrition facts labels changed from grams to teaspoons.
Setting aside the fact I’m pro metric system, this has a lot of fundamental problems.
First of all, people claim that naturally in America, nobody weighs their ingredients so nobody can relate weight of sugar in grams to teaspoons. Okay, so I guess that is somewhat understandable. I don’t believe that many people actually do weigh their ingredients. I occasionally do, as well as some bakers I know but that’s about it.
The majority of this article focuses on people not knowing how to measure in grams and that being the primary cause of it. Honestly, that seems like a load of crap. It does not take much to learn a different measurement at all, however nobody really reads the nutrition facts labels anyways.

Here is an argument against changing the labels….
Masses of sugar
Anyone back from school knows the rules of density. Different sugars have different densities. A 5 minute search online reveals a few things. 100g of High Fructose Corn Syrup, a common sweetener used in pop and other sugary drinks, has a volume of 78ml (roughly 5.25 tbsp). Now, compare that to 100g of powdered sugar, the kind you find in the grocery store. 100g of powdered sugar is about 190ml in volume (roughly 12.8 tbsp). Now, the companies that use natural sweeteners are going to get massively shafted, while the ones who used extremely processed sugar get the appearance of containing less sugar.

Now assume that the majority of customers are stupid. The average customer is going to look at these labels and say “Gee, this 2-litere bottle of pop has 20tbsp of sugar, where as this natural sweetened bottle of cola has 30tbsp of sugar. I’ll go for the one with 20tbsp with sugar.” 

Now, both bottles of pop actually contained 240 grams of sugar each, one had high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, and the other used cane sugar as a sweetener. The mass of sugar I used is just a shot in the dark though, as I don’t have any pop in my apartment to actually look at the nutrition facts, but you get the picture there.

Simply stating:

Switching the nutrition facts label from mass to volume is a very bad idea, and the only people who will get screwed of course is the customers.