For the first time in over 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration is proposing changes to the nutrition labels on food packaging. When they were first issued in the late 60's, when people most often cooked and ate at home, nutrition labeling was optional. It wasn't until 1990 that it became a requirement for companies—in recognition of the industry's increased production of processed foods through the years.
Since then, the U.S. has developed an intense and ever-evolving consciousness about food, proper nutrition and body weight. Hoping to help Americans make healthier shopping choices, the FDA is proposing label changes to emphasize the total number of calories and to make portion sizes more indicative of how we actually eat. The displayed calories for a 20-ounce bottle of soda, for example, will go up to reflect a serving size for the whole bottle, rather than less than half of it. The serving size of a mere half-cup of ice cream may change to a whole cup or even two. "Per package" numbers would be given in addition to "per serving."
"Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it's good for your family," First Lady Michelle Obama said in an official White House statement.
In addition, the proposed changes would highlight different kinds of fat content as well as other nutritional components. Food manufacturers would be required to list the amounts of vitamin D, calcium (essential for bone health) and iron, rather than amounts of vitamins A and C. The new labels would also declare levels of potassium, which aids in stabilizing blood pressure. Furthermore, the FDA plans to alter the required daily value of certain nutrients such as vitamin D, fiber and sodium, the latter to be lowered from 2,400 milligrams to 2,300.
Another new label item will declare the amount of added sugar, as opposed to natural sugar—specifically meant to draw focus to sugar in general, given that people often consume much more than the recommended dose. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 150 calories a day from sugar (approximately 9 teaspoons) for men and 100 for women (about 6 teaspoons).
The FDA has opened a 90-day comment period for public and industry input, after which it will begin to implement the shift. It could take several years, however, before we see the new labels on the shelf.
The idea behind these changes is for shoppers to be able to more easily read the nutrition information and make healthier decisions about what they buy and eat.
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