For the first time in twenty years, the FDA released a shiny, revamped model of the Nutrition Facts label designed to meet the needs – and address the obesity issues – of the new generation.
The labels themselves have few cosmetic changes. Instead, the focus of the new labels will be on emphasizing the calorie count and the added sugar content in the amount of food that Americans actually eat, not the misleading (and just plain awkward) serving size recommendations of the old labels.
“Package size affects what people eat,” the FDA said to NBC News. “So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.”
The standard recommendation for ice cream, which was one-half cup, will also change to two-thirds cup to reflect the typical nosh. This reduces the servings contained in our Chunky Monkey pints from four to three (but the caloric math still comes out the same, unfortunately).
Along with the big, bold calorie count and servings typeface and the new added sugar label requirement, there are a few more changes scheduled for the label set for use by July 26, 2018:
- With Calcium and Iron, Vitamin D and Potassium will become the new regulars on the food label.
- Vitamins C and A will no longer be mandatory listings, but can make cameo appearances at the manufacturer’s discretion.
- Calories from Fat will also be removed because the FDA deemed this information irrelevant next to the type of fat consumed and the total calorie count listed.
- The label’s footnote will be short and sweet; it will no longer include a complete breakdown of Total Fat, Sodium, Cholesterol, Carbohydrate and Fiber amounts recommended in 2,000 or 2,500 calorie diets.
First Lady Michelle Obama, who spearheads the “Let’s Move” campaign to address the epidemic of childhood obesity, expressed her approval and enthusiasm for the new food labels at a Washington D.C. event: “Very soon you will no longer need a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food that you’re buying is actually good for your kids, so that’s a phenomenal achievement.”
Not everyone is happy about the new changes. Even though the FDA insists on scientific evidence that supports reducing added sugars for a healthier diet, the Sugar Association accused the FDA of taking the focus off the true issues that cause obesity by blaming a sole ingredient. “We are concerned that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent that is not grounded in science, and could actually deter us from our shared goal of a healthier America,” the Sugar Association stated.
The ultimate purpose of the new nutrition label is to help consumers pay attention to the things we eat too much of, such as added sugar, and to pay special attention to the important nutrients we don’t get enough of, like bone-building Vitamin D. Seeing the real number of calories front and center on the next bag of chips or that twenty-ounce soda will be helpful in making better food decisions, too.