The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed a redesigned Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods that will highlight calorie counts and recalculate serving sizes in an effort to reduce the Americans' rate of chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The announcement marks the first significant changes to food labeling since 2006, when the FDA required trans fat to be declared in the Nutrition Facts panel, prompting some manufacturers to reduce the amount of harmful partially hydrogenated oils in their products. First Lady Michelle Obama, whose "Let's Move!" initiative seeks to help families make healthier eating choices, joined with the FDA to promote the changes.
“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,” the First Lady said in a statement. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”
According to the FDA, the new design will include:
- Information about the amount of “added sugars."
- Updated serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people actually eat. "What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994," according to the FDA. "By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people 'should' be eating. Present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting."
- “Dual column” labels that show both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information.
- The amount of potassium and vitamin D in a product. Some Americans are not getting enough of these nutrients, the FDA said. "Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label, though manufacturers could declare them voluntarily," the agency said.
- New "Daily Values" for sodium, dietary fiber, Vitamin D and other nutrients.
- Revamped format to emphasize calories and serving sizes.
“By revamping the Nutrition Facts label, FDA wants to make it easier than ever for consumers to make better informed food choices that will support a healthy diet.” said Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “To help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems facing our country, the proposed label would drive attention to calories and serving sizes.” Consumer advocates applauded the FDA's proposal, but noted that it was long overdue.
“This is good news for consumers,” said Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America in a statement. “Updating the Nutrition Facts Panel will provide consumers with more relevant and useful information about the foods they consume.”
The Nutrition Facts label appears on about 700,000 products in the U.S.
The public has 90 days to comment on the proposal through the Federal Register