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FDA proposes key changes to nutrition labels of packaged foods

Friday February 28, 2014
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The Food and Drug Administration has proposed to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.

The proposed label also would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people actually eat, according to an FDA news release, and would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes.

Some of the changes to the proposed label would:

• 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 excessive 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 serving sizes were first defined in 1994, according to the FDA. 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 consuming in sufficient amounts, thus increasing the risk of chronic disease, according to the FDA. 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, although 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 “Trans Fat” 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 public health problems such as obesity and heart disease, according to the FDA.

The proposed updates reflect new dietary recommendations, consensus reports and national survey data, such as the "2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans," nutrient intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The FDA also considered extensive input and comments from a wide range of stakeholders.

“By revamping the Nutrition Facts label, FDA wants to make it easier than ever for consumers to make better informed food choices that will support a healthy diet.” Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in the news release. “To help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems facing our country, the proposed label would drive attention to calories and serving sizes.”

The Nutrition Facts label has been required on food packages for 20 years, helping consumers better understand the nutritional value of foods to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. The label has not changed significantly since 2006, when information on trans fat was required to be declared on the label, prompting manufacturers to reduce partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of trans fat, in many products.

The changes proposed today affect all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The FDA also is proposing to make corresponding updates to the Supplement Facts label on dietary supplements where applicable.

The agency is accepting public comment on the proposed changes for 90 days.

Additional information: www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm


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