Nutrition labels redesigned for the first time in decades

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Nutrition labels on food may soon be getting a makeover for the first time in nearly two decades. The FDA is now proposing a new design based on the current reality of the American diet, taking into account expanded portion sizes and current eating habits. The nutrition labels appearing on food products now are based on data from 1970s and 80s.

The proposed changes cover three areas. First, there will be an updated design. In order to draw more attention to the calories and serving sizes, as well as total servings per container, this information will be presented more prominently with larger font. Percent daily values will also be relocated to make this information easier to use. Second, serving sizes will be updated to take into account what people are actually likely to eat. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda will be labeled as one serving rather than 2.5 servings as on the current labels. Additionally, a larger package, such as a pint of ice cream, that may be consumed in one or more sittings will include calorie content for one serving as well as for the entire container. Mary Poos, Ph.D., deputy director of FDA's Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements says that these changes will make it easier for people to be more realistic about the number of calories and nutrients they're actually consuming and to make healthier choices when choosing foods for themselves and their families.

Last, the nutrition label will now feature a line for added sugars. These are sugars that have been manufactured and added to foods and many public health experts argue that these added sugars are to blame for the obesity epidemic.

However, ACSH s Ariel Savransky says, Added sugars are processed in the same way by the body as natural sugars, and adding this line to the nutrition label suggests otherwise, thus incorrectly singling out added sugars as the sole cause of the obesity epidemic. However, the other proposed label changes, should people choose to pay attention to the nutrition label, may actually be helpful. Choosing to feature calorie information and serving sizes more prominently may actually make people more aware of the choices they are making. However, people need to know how to read these labels and many Americans either do not know how or just choose not to use the labels, so without any educational effort accompanying these changes, the new labels may not have an effect.

These proposed changes are now available for comment in the Federal Register.