FDA Proposes New Nutrition Labels

Existing Nutrition LabelIf you’ve taken one of my Smart Shopping classes, you know we spend a fair bit of time on deciphering the information on nutrition labels. You can see an example of what information is currently on them in the sample to the right.

It’s been 20 years since the Nutrition Facts panel was put in to place by the FDA, and while they added the Trans Fat line in 2006, there really hasn’t been any major changes. Until now.

Or at least they’re proposing some changes. Earlier this year the FDA proposed some changes they would like to implement, and there’s been months of discussion on it already. We’ll see if that ends up changing anything, but for now here is some of the more significant changes they’re looking to make.

First up are plans to get more realistic about serving sizes. One of the biggest problems for may folks is portion sizing, and when there is a disconnect between what a package says is a portion and what people realistically are eating, it can quickly lead to over consumption of calories. Probably the easiest example to cite is the pint of ice cream – currently they are labelled as being 4, 1/2 cup servings. Under the proposed changes, a pint package will be 2, 1 cup servings.

Then you’ll notice that the calorie count is much LARGER and more prominent… along with the elimination of the calories from fat. The thinking is that if a realistic portion size is given, and the calorie count for that serving is right there in front of you, it will help make it much easier for folks to realize just how many calories they are (or potentially are) eating. And the worry over total amount of fat is diminishing, with more focus being given to the type of fat and the relative amounts when compared to each other.

Proposed Nutrition Label

Another big change is a revamp of the Total Carbs section. Under the propose changes, not only will total sugars have to still be given, but food companies will have to tell you how much of those sugars are added sugars. This will help consumers differentiate sugars from sources like dairy and fruits from processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc…

A couple other changes include dual columns for percent of daily values – one column for a serving and another for the entire package, especially for things that may very well be consumed as one serving no matter what the food maker claims. They Daily Values themselves may get some revamping, and other nutrients may get some specific highlighting over others from the past. Specifically Vitamin D because of it’s importance in bone health and Potassium for the role it plays in lowering blood pressure.

These changes aren’t a bad start… I’ve read a number of thoughts from others on things that could be done to help even more, and I may share some of them later. For now, it will be interesting to watch how these proposals actually fare during the review process. The sugars thing specifically, I can see a lot of food companies not wanting that to make it through…

But, hopefully these things go through, it will mean less time spent on that section during the Smart Shopping class, and more time out exploring in the stores.


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