Food Labeling Updates Will Result in More Accurate Serving Size: FDA

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By: Martha Garcia | Published: February 28th, 2014

Federal health regulators plan to make major changes to nutrition labels, which will include new serving sizes, calorie information and sugar calculations, as well as other data.  

The proposed nutrition label changes will revise the old nutrition labels to include the most current scientific information, the FDA announced on February 27. The agency hopes to help curb chronic disease in America by better informing consumers.

“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,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a press release. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”

The new label requirements include changes to serving sizes, calorie information, sugar content and other vitamins and nutrients. Health officials say the changes will highlight the information consumers need most when making decisions about what to eat.

The new design will update the serving size of packaged food, offering the first change to that information since the food labels were introduced in 1994. It will also include a larger font for the total calories.

The FDA contends the updated labels will more accurately reflect what people realistically eat, not what they should be eating.

By law, nutrition labels must be based on how much food consumers eat, not the recommended serving size. Since the majority of the country eats larger portion sizes than they did two decades ago, the changes are long overdue, the FDA claims.

Currently a 20-ounce bottle of soda is considered 2.5 servings, even though nearly all consumers consider them a single serving. Under the new labels, the nutritional information provided for that bottle will be based on one serving, reducing confusion for consumers.

A pint of ice cream is currently considered four servings, at a half cup each. Most consumers eat more than half a cup during one sitting, so the new proposed regulations would change the servings size to two servings per container, at 1 cup each.

The new labels will also add a line item for “added sugars,” which is designed to allow consumers to understand how much of the sugar content is added during the manufacturing process.

Information on vitamin D and potassium would also be highlighted with the new labeling, while recommended daily values for sodium and dietary fiber would also receive an overhaul.

The outdated nutrition labels currently include information on fat; including total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and calories from fat. The latter category would be removed from the new labeling.

Health officials say the focus is on the link between the American diet and chronic disease, such as obesity and heart disease. Armed with more information which is correctly updated, they hope consumers will be positioned to make healthier decisions.

The proposed label changes are being widely praised and expected to be adopted without much opposition. The Obama administration recently promoted the changes in an anniversary ceremony for the “Let’s Move Campaign,” which focuses on reducing obesity.

The changes would affect all packaged food except some meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The FDA is also proposing changes to the labels of the Supplement Facts on dietary supplements.

The proposed changes will be open for comment for 90 days. The label update was created using information from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrient intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Those wishing to comment should see the comment information in the federal register notice.

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