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FDA to Give Nutrition Labels Major Makeover: 3 Things to Look Out For

nutritionFor the first time in more than 20 years, the FDA is moving to change nutrition information found on food labels.

The focus is on calorie count and adjusting portion sizes to reflect how much we actually eat, because, as we all know, ain’t nobody eating just 3/4 a cup of Cocoa Puffs.

The changes, prompted by First Lady Michelle Obama’s push to encourage families to make healthier food choices, are the first made to food labels since the federal government started requiring them in the early 1990s.

So what exactly will be different when you look at labels? Here’s what you need to know:

Serving Size

As already mentioned, no longer will deciphering calories based on serving size be more difficult than solving a quadratic equation. The FDA is proposing changes to serving size requirements to more accurately reflect what people usually eat or drink. For example, the average 20-ounce bottle of soda will become one serving instead of two-and-a-half, because most people tend to drink the entire bottle in one sitting. Your average pint of Ben & Jerry’s would go from four servings down to two because, duh, nobody takes four servings to finish off a pint of ice cream. (If they want to really keep us moms honest, they’d make that pint just one serving — am I right, ladies?) Michael Jacobson, executive director of the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, tells USA Today the changes will “prevent companies from using these large single-serving packages and pretending they are multiple servings.”

Calories

As you can see in the image above, calories are easy to spot. Calorie counts will be in bigger, bolder print than other facts. Also, “Calories from fat” will be gone, while total fat, saturated and trans fats remain because, as USA Today notes, the type of fat people eat is more important than the amount. “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,” 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.”

Separate Line for Sugars

Now, grams of added sugars, whether they come from corn syrup, honey, sucrose or any other source, will be shown in one number. “The changes put added sugars clearly in the cross hairs,” said Dr. David A. Kessler to the NY Times. “America has the sweetest diet in the world. You can’t get to be as big as we’ve gotten without added sweeteners.”  This trend of increasing sugar consumption has caused a rise in diabetes rates as well as the risk for cancer, heart disease, and stroke, the NY Times noted.

The changes come at a time when more Americans than ever are paying attention to food labels. As CNN notes, “a USDA study released last month showed 42% of working-age adults between 29 and 68 looked at these labels most or all of the time when shopping. Some 57% of Americans older than 68 did as well. That’s up from 2007, when 34% of working-age adults looked at the label, and 51% of Americans older than 68 did.”

The proposal is open to public comment for 90 days. After that, changes won’t be official for months, and manufacturing companies will then have two years to put the changes into effect.

Do you look at food labels? If so, what do you look at most? Do you think the proposed changes are a good thing?

 

Image courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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