Posted on Feb 28, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they would be modifying the Nutrition Facts labels on foods to better reflect the American public in addition to the latest scientific developments regarding diet and obesity. Heart disease being one of the most common causes of death in the United States, along with the ever-increasing rate of type-2 diabetes among the American populous, the FDA made the decision to adjust food labels to focus more on pressing health issues such as these.

Some of the changes to the label the FDA proposed:

  • Require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food 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. The FDA proposes to include “added sugars” on the label to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product.
  • Update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people “should” be eating. Present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting.
  • 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. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. 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 last major change to food labels what in 2006 identifying trans-fats within various food products. Teaching the American public how to select foods according to their health benefits is key in understanding nutrition labels. Sugars, fats, sodium, and calories are among the factors that most Americans should be paying attention to when they shop for food.

Below: Traditional Nutrition Facts label (left) required on food products of the United States next to the newly proposed Nutrition Labels (right).

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