Nutrition Facts Label Gets a Proposed Makeover

A lot has changed in the American diet since the Nutrition Facts label was introduced in 1993 to provide important nutritional information on food packages, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said the label needs to be up to date with its design and content. 

"Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems," said Michael Landa, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems. Further, we are now proposing to require the listing of added sugars. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing calories from added sugars and solid fats."

The first thing consumers would notice is a greater emphasis, with larger and bolder type, on calories. For the first time, "Added Sugars" would be included on the label. On average, Americans eat 16% of their daily calories from sugars added during food production, the FDA said. The calories from fat would no longer be listed. Total, saturated and trans fat will still be required. The number of servings per package would also be more prominent. And "Amount Per Serving," would now have the actual serving size listed, such as "Amount per cup."

The FDA is also proposing updating serving size requirements. These updates, it said, "would reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they 'should' be eating." 

Daily Values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value (%DV) on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total diet. In addition, the %DV would be shifted to the left of the label. FDA wants to help consumers visually and quickly put nutrient information in context. The amounts of potassium and Vitamin D would be required on the label.

FDA is dividing the proposed Nutrition Facts label changes into two proposed rules, one that would update the nutrition information based on nutrition science and the label design to help highlight important information. The second covers the changes to serving size requirements and labeling for certain package sizes. Both are published in the Federal Register for a 90-day comment period; to read them and comment, visit FDA's official docket at FDA proposes that the food industry be given two years to comply after publication of any final rules governing the Nutrition Facts label. This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

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