Ever look at the nutrition label on a drink bottle and become annoyed seeing "serving size: 2"? It's one bottle! A new overhaul of nutrition labels by the Food and Drug Administration will change that, and a whole lot more.
If approved, the proposed new nutrition labels on packaged foods and beverages would place a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients, such as vitamin D and potassium, according to CNN.
The first thing consumers would notice is a greater emphasis - with much larger and bolder type - on calories. The calorie count will be in. Your. Face.
Serving-size requirements would also shift in an effort to more accurately reflect what people really eat or drink. For example, if you buy a 20-ounce soda, you're probably not going to stop drinking at the 8-ounce mark and save the rest for later. The new rules would require the entire soda bottle to be considered one serving size.
"Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems," says Michael Landa, director of the 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."
It's the first overhaul for nutrition labels since the FDA began requiring them over two decades ago, and it is long overdue.
"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," First Lady Michelle Obama said in a press release. "So this is a big deal, and it's going to make a big difference for families all across this country."
The proposed labels would remove the "calories from fat" line currently found on labels, focusing instead on total calories found in each serving. However, the breakdown of total fat vs. saturated and trans fat would remain, illustrating the fact that nutritionists now realize that the type of fat is more important than the total amount of fat.
The new labels would also note how much added sugar is in a product, as opposed to the amount of naturally occurring sugar.
The FDA also plans to update the daily values for certain nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D to reflect new standards. For example, the daily limit for sodium will shift from 2,400 milligrams to 2,300 milligrams. Food and beverage companies would also be required to list the amounts of vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron in products. "We have evidence that people are not consuming enough of these nutrients to protect against chronic diseases," the FDA says in a statement.
Government officials said about 17% of current serving size requirements will be changing. Most will be going up (who eats half a cup of ice cream?); a few (like yogurt) will be going down. The new serving sizes will "reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data," the FDA says.. "By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they 'should' be eating." And instead of a vague "serving," it will tell you exactly what the serving size is: one cup, a half-cup, whatever.
With this announcement, the FDA has opened a 90-day comment period, during which experts and members of the public can provide input on the proposed rules. The FDA will then issue a final ruling. Officials said they hope to complete the process this year. Manufacturing companies will then have two years to implement the changes.
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A USDA study released last month showed 42% of working-age adults between 29 and 68 look at nutrition labels most or all of the time when shopping. Close to 60% of Americans older than 68 do. Then they go ahead and drink that entire 20-oz. soda.
But at least now they'll have a better idea what they're in for.