The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday proposed changes in the design and content of nutrition labels on food products in the United States. With the modifications, the FDA hopes to bring more attention to calories and serving sizes, two things they feel are most important in addressing chronic problems like heart disease and obesity.
An important addition to the labels under the proposal is a listing for “added sugars.” One of the recommendations in the FDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans is take in fewer calories from added sugars, and on current labels there is no way for consumers to find that information. Jessica Leighton, senior advisor for the FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, says the aim of the new labels was to give people tools to help in the awareness of what they eat and assist them in making healthy food choices throughout the day.
Here is a rundown of the changes you’ll notice on the proposed nutrition labels if they are adopted:
- There will be a greater emphasis on calories. The largest number on the label will be the number of calories, and it will be in bold type.
- Added sugars will now be on the label, right underneath the number for the total sugar.
- They will no longer contain the number of calories from fat. Claudine Kavanaugh, a health scientist at the FDA, says the most important is the type of fat. Amount of total fat, saturated fat and trans fat will still be included.
- Servings per package will be in a larger type and will be bolded, and “Amount of Serving” will now list the actual serving size. For example, if the serving size is ½ cup, the label will read “Amount per ½ cup.”
- Serving size requirement would be updated to reflect how much people actually eat, rather than what they should be eating.
- The daily values for various nutrients would be updated, and the percentage of daily values would be moved to the far left side of the label. This is meant to make labels more quickly and easily read.
- Potassium and Vitamin D will be required on the new labels. Vitamin D is essential for bone health in women and the elderly, and potassium helps with hypertension and blood pressure. Leighton says the FDA feels people are not consuming enough of those nutrients to help “protect against chronic diseases.”
Both Leighton and Kavanaugh emphasize that the FDA is not in the business of telling people what to eat, but rather giving people the right nutrition information to make educated food choices. This can be valuable information, especially for those with health issues.
The proposed changes for the FDA’s changes for nutrition are grouped into two categories. The first entails the nutritional information and the design of the labels. The other is all about the new serving size requirements and changes for certain product package sizes. The changes will now be subject to a 90-day public comment and then go back before the FDA for review. Any necessary modifications will then be made, and the FDA will issue its final ruling. If all goes as planned, the new labels should become industry standard within two years.
By Chuck Podhaisky