Take Action: Nutrition Labels

Numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they also don’t tell the whole story.  For that reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently unveiled a proposal to update American nutrition labels.  That’s right – the trusty black and white chart appearing on every package in our grocery stores, carefully outlining the number of calories, fat, sodium, and health of each food, is getting a makeover!

Since the nutrition labels first appeared in 1994, they haven’t changed a bit.  But now, 20 years later, the FDA thinks it’s time for a new look.  After all, research has changed the way we understand food and nutrition, and American eating habits have changed as well.  The FDA hopes that the new labels will help Americans make better choices about their eating habits and ultimately their health.

Take a look at the proposed new design, and then read on to learn more about the differences and how your input can make a difference.

nutrition labels

Changes:

  1. Serving Sizes: Instead of the phrase ‘per serving size,’ the new label clearly lists a specific amount.  For example, the new sample lists 2/3 cup as the serving size.
  2. Calories: The new label makes the number of total calories larger, drawing attention and making it easier to read.  Explaining why he decided to make the number so large, the label designer recently told Politico, “I was picturing a mom who had a screaming baby, or an elderly person, or perhaps a diabetic person with eye issues.”  The new label also eliminates calories from fat.  Research has shown that fat calories are less important than the type of fat in the food.
  3. Daily Values: How much each food contributes to the recommended daily value of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, and other vitamins and minerals is featured more prominently on the left-hand side of the new label.  This positioning allows people to immediately see how much each serving contributes to the average person’s daily nutritional goals.
  4. Sugars: Instead of only listing a food’s sugar content, the new label features an second row for added sugars.  For snacks and dairy-based foods, this measure is especially helpful in differentiating naturally-occurring sugars from sugars added during processing.
  5. Vitamins and Minerals: The new label requires potassium and vitamin D contents to be included.  Previously, vitamin A and C were required, but research has shown that potassium and vitamin D are more essential nutrients to fight chronic diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Along with the visual changes, the new label project will also include recalculating serving sizes, which have grown over the years.  As our Portion Distortion post explained, restaurants are serving more and people are eating more than 20 years ago, when the sizes were determined.  Increasing serving sizes to more realistic levels will help show people exactly how many calories, fat grams, sodium milligrams, etc. they eat with each snack or meal.

Additionally, the FDA will recalculate the optimal amount of all vitamins and minerals needed on a daily basis for a healthy, balanced diet.  We know more about food and nutrition than we did 20 years ago, and we also know much more about how much our bodies need of each nutrient.  Taking all of the new research into account, the FDA will adjust the daily values, or DV, for each part of the label.

Take a Stand:

Many changes lie ahead, but for now, nothing is set in stone.  In fact, the FDA wants to know what YOU think about the proposal.  Some people argue that a new label isn’t necessary, while others say a new label should include things like gluten, chemicals, or better explanations about daily values and adjusting for individual diets.

Do you like the changes?  Do you think the new labels include too much information?  Do you wish the labels would include other information? The goal of updating the nutrition labels is to make grocery shopping, meal planning, and healthy living easier for everyone – do you think the new labels do that?

Until June 2, 2014, the proposal is open for public comments, which the FDA will take into consideration when making their final proposal.  Visit the Government Regulations homepage to voice your support, dissent, or suggestions for improvement by clicking here, and take a stand for nutrition awareness!

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