FDA Proposes Overhaul of Food Labels, Increased Focus on Calorie Counts


An FDA proposal to change nutrition labels would make calorie counts more prominent and require packages to more accurately reflect serving sizes.

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The Food and Drug Administration proposed two major changes to the way food labels are placed on packaged foods today, February 27. Under the proposed new label, companies would be required to more accurately reflect the amount of food consumed by a normal person, thus preventing half a bottle of a personal bottle of soda or a quarter of a candy bar from being considered serving sizes.

“Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems,” said 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.”

In addition to correcting serving sizes to more accurately reflect common eating habits, the FDA also proposed making calorie counts as well as servings per container more prominent on packages. Larger and bolder font would be used to make calories stand out on the label and calories from fat would no longer be listed, but total, saturated, and trans fats would still be distinguished.

“We know that the type of fat is more important than the total amount of fat," said Claudine Kavanaugh, an FDA health scientist.

Additionally, daily value percentages would be moved to the left margin, and percentages would be updated for various nutrients in an effort to help consumers more quickly and easily identify nutritional information. Potassium and Vitamin D would become requirements on labels as well.

The FDA says that the goal of these changes is not to tell individuals what to eat, but to provide them with readily viewable information about the foods they buy so they can more easily make food purchases and keep track of their own nutrition.

“The goal is to make people aware of what they are eating and give them the tools to make healthy dietary choices throughout the day,” said Jessica Leighton, science and policy advisor of the FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

“It's all about providing information that people can use to make their own choices,” added Kavanaugh. “Although the label is made for the general population, many of us are at risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stroke or simply want to eat fewer calories.”

The FDA is asking for public comment on the proposed changes, and recommends that the food industry be given two years to come into compliance with the new standards should the new label take effect.

News of the potential new labels comes shortly after Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn proposed new nutritional standards that would provide healthier food options from concession stands and vending machines at all County-owned facilities.

[Source: FDA]