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New Food Label Gets a Face-Lift | April 16, 2014

For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDS) has announced plans to update the Nutrition Facts label.  The new labels should make it easier for consumers to make healthy food choices.

The purpose of the Nutrition Facts label, which has become one of the most recognized graphics in the world, is to provide the general public with information necessary to choose healthy diets.  Such information is just one tool to help people both maintain healthy weight and make healthier food choices.  Over the 20 years since the labeling law was implemented, a lot of new science has looked at the relationship between nutrients and chronic diseases.  It is now time for the little rectangular box to get a facelift.

Since the public health profile of the population has changed with the increased incidence of obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases, it is important to update the label to reflect new science and public information.  Here is what we can expect:

  • Larger and bolder type bringing attention to calories and serving sizes.
  • For the first time, “Added Sugars” will be included on the label.  The average American consumes far too many calories from sugars added during the food production.  Now, consumers will have a way of making informed decisions regarding added sugars.
  • Calories from fat will be removed.  Total saturated and trans fat will still be listed because that is more important than the total amount of calories from fat.
  • The number of services per package will be more prominent, and the amount per servicing will actually have the serving size listed, such as “amount per cup.” Serving sizes will also represent what people actually eat.  For example, a 12 oz can of soda would be listed as one serving rather than two servings per container.
  • The % Daily Values for nutrients such as fiber and calcium will be updated.
  • As for nutrients, potassium and vitamin D, if present, will be added.  Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, especially among women and the elderly, and potassium helps to lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension.  Vitamins A and C will no longer be required on the label.

The new changes are based on science and take people’s actual eating behavior into account.  The goal is to expand and highlight the information consumers need to make healthful food choices, not to tell people what they should or should not be eating.  People with certain health issues can now pay attention to sodium and potassium amounts on food labels.  For cardiovascular health, consumers can seek foods lower in saturated fats, cholesterol, trans fats and sodium.

For the general public, we won’t be fooled into thinking something only has 250 calories when there are actually three servings in the container, for a total of 750 calories.

Currently, the FDA is seeking comment on these proposed changes.  If you would like to comment, visit FDA’s official docket at www.regulations.gov.