In this Jan. 23, 2014 file photo, the nutrition facts label on the side of a cereal box is photographed in Washington. Nutrition facts labels on food packages are getting a long-awaited makeover, with calories listed in bigger, bolder type and a new line for added sugars. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File/Thinkstock)
Food labels are getting a makeover
May 31, 2016
Nutrition facts labels on food packages are getting a long-awaited makeover. Calories will be listed in bigger, bolder type. A new line will be added. It is for added sugars.
Serving sizes will be updated. They should be more realistic. A small bag of chips won't count as two or three servings, for example.
First lady Michelle Obama is expected to announce final rules for new labels. She is scheduled to make a speech May 27. It will be part of her "Let's Move!" campaign. The campaign is to combat childhood obesity. The changes were first proposed by the Food and Drug Administration two years ago. They are the first major update of the labels since they were created in 1994. The labels are now found on more than 800,000 products.
"This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices," the first lady said in a statement.
The overhaul comes as the science has changed in recent decades. Fat was the focus in the 1990s. That is when the labels were first created. Now there is more concern about how many calories people eat. The calorie listing will now be much larger than the rest of the type on the label. It will make it hard to overlook.
Serving sizes will also be easier to see. They will be listed at the top of the graphic. And it will be easier to figure out how many servings are in a container. This is part of an attempt to revise long-misleading serving sizes.
Calculations for serving sizes will also be revised. The idea behind listing a whole package of food or drink as one serving size isn't that people should eat more. The idea is that they should understand how many calories are in what they are actually eating. The FDA says that by law, serving sizes must be based on actual consumption. It should not be based on ideal consumption.
Nutrition advocates have long asked for the added sugars line on the label. That's because it's impossible for consumers to know how much sugar in an item is naturally occurring, like those in fruit and dairy products, and how much is added by the manufacturer. Think of an apple vs. applesauce, which comes in sweetened and unsweetened varieties.
There was another change to the labels. The levels of potassium and Vitamin D will be included. They are two nutrients. Americans don't get enough of those. Vitamin C and Vitamin A listings are no longer required. But, they can be included. Iron and calcium will stay.
The food industry has two years to comply.
Reaction to the labels from food companies has been mixed since they were first proposed. Some companies have fought the new line for added sugar. Others have supported it. The Grocery Manufacturers Association represents the food industry's largest companies. It has supported the larger print for calories.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why will the change in “serving size” help people know the impact of the food they eat?
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