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Nutrition labels to change
Nutrition labels to change
In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed several changes to the nutrition labels you see on packaged foods and beverages. The proposed changes are meant to improve awareness of how much we are eating, what we are eating and help us make informed healthy food choices. BeWell spoke with Joyce Hanna, MS, associate director of the Stanford Health Improvement Program (HIP), about the proposed changes.
When was the last time labels were changed?
This marks the first overhaul of nutrition labeling in over 20 years.
What are the three proposed major changes?
- Nutrition labels will feature a greater emphasis on total calories. The calorie count will be highlighted by increasing the font size and bolding the number of calories and servings per container. This is important because, at a time when the obesity level is rising in the U.S., the label will draw attention to exactly how many how many calories are in the serving size.
- Serving sizes will change. This proposed change is an effort to more accurately reflect what people usually eat or drink. For instance, the serving size listed on cartons of ice cream, currently a half-cup, would be increased to one cup. Twenty-ounce bottles of soda would be counted as one serving rather than the 2.5 servings often listed now.
- The current sugar data will be expanded to include a separate line for “added” sugars. Right now it is difficult to know if food contains naturally occurring sugar or extra sugar added by the manufacturer. Added sugars provide no additional nutrient value and public health experts recommend that Americans decrease their intake of such sugars. The food industry has argued against similar suggestions in the past and experts say this addition will be a particularly controversial item.
When will the changes take place?
On February 26, 2014, the FDA opened a 90-day comment period, during which people can provide input on the proposed rules. At the end of this period, the FDA will issue a final rule and manufacturing companies will have two years to implement the changes.
What additional nutrients is FDA proposing be added to labels?
The FDA proposes adding Vitamin D because research shows that many Americans are not consuming enough for bone and general health. Potassium is also being proposed because adequate intake is beneficial in lowering blood pressure and intake of this nutrient is also low in some population groups.
Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Current data indicates that Vitamin A and C deficiencies in the general population are not common and are no longer required, but can be declared on a label on a voluntary basis.
Why is the FDA proposing a daily value of 2,300 mg for sodium, but asking for comments on a lower daily value of 1,500 mg?
The recommended daily limit for sodium has been based on 2,400 mg per day, so 2,300 would represent only a slight decrease. However, the American Heart Association (AHA) has indicated that 2,300 mg is still too high; the AHA continues to recommend sodium intake be limited to 1,500 mg a day.
Many experts have already recommended that certain groups who are at increased risk of hypertension (elevated blood pressure) reduce their sodium intake to a maximum 1,500 mg per day. These groups include individuals aged 51 years or older; African Americans; and individuals with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes.
To add to the question, a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on sodium concluded that evidence from studies is inconsistent and insufficient to conclude that lowering sodium intake below 2,300 mg per day will decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the FDA is proposing a daily value of 2,300 mg, but is asking for comments concerning whether a daily value of 1,500 would be more appropriate.
Why would the new labels remove the “calories from fat” line you currently see on labels?
The data now supports the fact that the type of fat you are eating matters more than the calories from fat. The breakdown of total fat versus saturated and trans fat would remain on labels.
Do you think these changes will help the U.S population make better food choices?
I do. The new label will reflect the latest scientific consensus about nutrition and will make choosing healthier foods at the grocery store a little easier. Research shows that more and more consumers are using the Nutrition Fact label; there has been a shift in shoppers’ priorities since the last overhaul, with more consumers having a better understanding of what they should learn from the label. Furthermore, a helpful side effect could ensue: with the greater emphasis on calories, portion size and the amount of sugar added, food companies may gradually adjust (for the better) what they put in foods.
What do you think of the proposed changes?
Add your comments by visiting the FDA’s official docket: http://www.regulations.gov.
The complete text of the proposed changes can be found at: