To Your Health: Changes afoot for confusing nutrition facts labels

nutrition labelHave you ever looked at a nutrition facts label and thought, “Wow, this is so easy to understand”?

Yeah, neither have we.

The nutrition facts label that appears on packaged foods debuted in 1993, and was seen as an important step in alerting Americans about the amount of calories and fats in foods.

It certainly has helped to raise awareness.

But just about everybody agrees it should be easier to understand.

So the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing a nutrition facts label makeover that puts greater emphasis on calories, serving sizes and added sugars.

First lady Michelle Obama unveiled the proposed new label at a news conference this week, saying that the existing nutrition facts labels are confusing and a refresh is long overdue.

“Unless you had a thesaurus, a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition, you were out of luck,” she said. “So you felt defeated, and you just went back to buying the same stuff. As parents and as consumers, we have a right to understand what’s in the food we’re feeding our families.”

What’s different in the proposed label?

nutritionlabel

Proposed changes to the nutrition facts labels on foods include putting the calories per serving in big, bold type. This mock-up was released by the Food and Drug Administration.

Here’s the rundown, courtesy of the FDA:

There’s a greater emphasis on calories. The calories will be listed in larger and bolder type. You won’t be able to miss it.

• The FDA is also proposing serving size requirements that reflect what people actually eat. Many experts agree this is an important change. Because who actually drinks a half of a bottle of fruit juice or eats 3/4 cup of cereal?

Added sugars appear on the label for the first time. Now, nutrition labels only tell you the total amount of sugar per serving so you can’t decipher how much of that sugar is natural and how much of that sugar is added.

The number of servings in a package are prominent.

The amount of potassium and Vitamin D are on every label. Americans don’t get enough of these important nutrients, which can help prevent chronic diseases.

All these changes sound great, right? We think so, too.

So what’s next?

The new labels are going out for public comment. After that, the FDA will review the feedback. Once the changes are finalized (that could take as long as a year), companies will have two years to change their packaging.

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