News Column

Nutrition Labels to Get a Revamp

February 27, 2014

UPI Health News

America is known as many things: the land of the free, the land of opportunity, the land of plenty. American is also known as -- less flatteringly -- the land of super-sized portions and stretched waistbands.

Now, the Food and Drug Administration is embracing the realities of the outsized American diet. The FDA is proposing new rules that would change what's considered as a "single serving" so that nutritional facts on the packaging better reflect the consumption habits of Americans.

"By law, the label information on serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they 'should' be eating," the FDA said in a statement. "For certain packages that are larger and could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers would have to provide 'dual column' labels to indicate both 'per serving' and 'per package' calories and nutrient information."

In other words, under the proposed changes nutritional information presented on a 24-ounce bottle of soda would be based on the assumption that a consumer will drink the soda in one sitting. The idea being that -- under the current rules -- by dividing a single bottle of soda into multiple servings, nutritional facts (like total grams of sugar or percentage of daily sodium) are advertised as artificially low.

"The serving sizes for many foods are a joke now -- the half-cup of ice cream, 2-ounce muffins and bagels, which haven't been seen in decades," Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Los Angeles Times.

The changes are part of a ongoing effort by the Obama administration to address the growing obesity epidemic. Two out of every three Americans are either overweight or obese.

"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 Michele Obama said in a statement. The rule change announcement comes on the fourth anniversary of her "Let's Move!" initiative.

In addition to tweaking serving sizes, the proposed rule change would make the calorie total at the top of a label bigger and bolder, and vitamins A and B would be swapped out in favor of vitamin D and potassium, an apparent reaction to America's rising blood pressure levels.

Food companies would be expected to bear the cost of the changes, estimated at $2 billion. If approved, the FDA says the changes would be phased in gradually.

[NBC News]

[Los Angeles Times]

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Original headline: FDA to tinker with recommended serving sizes, nutrition labels



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