Are We Ready for New Nutritional Information Labels?

The FDA recently took its first step toward a facelift for the now ubiquitous nutritional information labels we see on food and drink every day. On February 27, 2014, the FDA proposed updates to the labels for all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products. The proposed changes would be the first update to nutritional information labels since 2006, when the labels were first required to include information on trans fats. These proposed changes aim to address rising concerns about diet-related health problems in America – including rapidly increasing obesity, heart problems, diabetes, and more – by making it easier for average consumers to pick up a food and understand from its nutritional information label whether it is healthy.

Some of the changes the FDA proposes would require nutritional information labels to:

  • Provide specific information about the amount of added sugars in a food product. This proposed change reflects concerns about Americans consuming too many calories from added (as opposed to naturally-occurring) sugars.
  • Re-assess and update serving sizes to better reflect the amounts people actually eat nowadays. Established serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat – not what they “should” be eating. This change aims to provide more transparent information regarding the amounts of foods people actually consume.
  • Depict “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.
  • Better emphasize what is widely considered the most important nutritional information, such as calories, serving sizes and percent daily value. Again, this change seeks to bring more clarity and simplicity to nutritional labels so that people will better understand the most basic information about what they are actually consuming.

In developing these proposed changes, the FDA has already considered updated dietary recommendations 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 is also seeking comment from the public about these proposed changes.

What do you think about the FDA’s proposed changes? Helpful clarification or unnecessary burden on food, drink, and packaging producers? The FDA commentary period will be open through June 2, 2014.

For more information, click here. To read the full proposed changes and comment on them, click here.

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