The FDA is proposing a major overhaul to nutrition labels, to make them more user-friendly and reflective of the latest nutrition science. The new labels will include information about added sugars – a big deal in health nutrition – and will reflect actual serving sizes rather than the current idealistic ones. The labels will also change up the vitamins that are mentioned, to highlight those that are more relevant to chronic health and disease. The old labels, says the FDA, are antiquated, and a change long overdue.
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“For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. “To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.”
And First Lady Michelle Obama is behind the push to revamp nutrition labels. “Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” she said. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”
Here are the major changes that would take effect:
- Information about the amount of “added sugars” in the product would be included, since added sugars, beyond natural sugars, are now known to be the crux of the problem.
- Serving sizes will be updated to reflect the amounts people actually eat. “By law,” says the FDA, “serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people ‘should’ be eating.”
- The “dual column” will be presented on labels “to indicate both ‘per serving’ and ‘per package’ calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.”
- The vitamin section will be revamped: Vitamins A and C will be omitted, but vitamin D and potassium will be included, since they affect the risk of chronic health issues, like osteoporosis and blood pressure.
- “Calories from fat” will be removed, but “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will remain. The FDA says, “the type of fat is more important than the amount.”
Hopefully the changes (there’s a 90 comment period before they would go into affect) will help people get to understand nutrition a little better. The most noteworthy change will likely be to require manufacturers to indicate, for the very first time, the amount of sugar they’re adding to food. “The changes put added sugars clearly in the cross hairs,” said David A. Kessler, quoted in the Times. “America has the sweetest diet in the world. You can’t get to be as big as we’ve gotten without added sweeteners.”
For more information, please see the FDA’s website.