Do We Need A Better Nutrition Label?

The nutrition facts-label on packaged food is one of the most important consumer tools for determining how healthy food products are. But the label, which lists fats, proteins, sugars and fibers, hasn’t changed since 1993, except for one alteration in 2006, when details of trans fats were added.

Now, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing an update to the label. Although the update isn’t approved yet, the agency has been holding public hearings and soliciting comments on the proposals. Here, the agency lists some of the biggest alterations.

The label would, as proposed:

Require information about “added sugars.” Many experts recommend consuming fewer calories from added sugar because they can decrease the intake of nutrient-rich foods while increasing calorie intake.
Update daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D.

Require manufacturers to declare the amount of potassium and Vitamin D on the label, because they are new “nutrients of public health significance.” Calcium and iron would continue to be required, and Vitamins A and C could be included on a voluntary basis.

Continue to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, but remove “Calories from Fat” because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

Change the serving size requirements to reflect how people eat and drink today, which has increased since serving sizes were first established 20 years ago. By law, the label information on serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they “should” be eating.

Require that packaged foods, including drinks, that are typically eaten in one sitting be labeled as a single serving and that calorie and nutrient information be declared for the entire package. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda, typically consumed in a single sitting, would be labeled as one serving rather than as more than one serving.

For certain packages that are larger and could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers would have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calories and nutrient information. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. This way, people would be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.

Make calories and serving sizes more prominent to emphasize parts of the label that are important in addressing current public health concerns such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

For more information on the proposed changes, visit www.fda.gov.

Reprinted from U.S Food and Drug Administration.