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The changes proposed will affect all package design for food, except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The new label will be featured on packaged foods to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The proposed label would also replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label.

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www.fda.gov

The original Nutrition Facts label was released in 1994 and has only been updated once during that 20-year period. The label has not changed significantly since 2006 when information on trans fat had to be declared on the label. What and how much people eat and drink has changed a lot since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994. The font has been improved to be more readable and the serving size and calories have been blown up in size for quick recognition.

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image via LetsMove.gov
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks announcing proposed revisions to the Nutrition Facts label during a “Let’s Move!” event in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Even First Lady Michelle Obama is behind the effort, stating: “Our guiding principle here is very simple: that 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.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. said, “To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.”

Some of the changes the FDA proposed for the label would:

  • Require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that intake of added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced.
  • Update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people “should” be eating.
  • Present “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.
  • Require the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, nutrients that some in the U.S. population are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label, though manufacturers could declare them voluntarily.
  • Revise the Daily Values for a variety of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. Daily Values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
  • While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “TransFat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes, and Percent Daily Value, which are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.

The proposed updates reflect new dietary recommendations, consensus reports, and national survey data, such as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrient intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The FDA also considered extensive input and comments from a wide range of stakeholders.

By revamping the Nutrition Facts label, FDA wants to make it easier than ever for consumers to make better informed food choices that will support a healthy diet.” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “To help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems facing our country, the proposed label would drive attention to calories and serving sizes.”

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