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FDA redesigns nutrition labels to reflect how Americans actually eat

FDA redesigns nutrition labels to reflect how Americans actually eat

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Nutrition facts
Nutrition facts

For the first time in 20 years, the FDA has proposed changes to its Nutrition Facts food labels. In the FDA's new designs, several important food stats have been enlarged, and some have even been recalculated in accordance with the actual serving sizes Americans eat today, The New York Times reports. "This is a big deal, and it's going to make a big difference for families all across this country," said First Lady Michelle Obama in the FDA's proposal.

One 20-ounce soda now counts as one serving

Most noticeably, the calorie count of a food item has been super-sized, which should make scanning labels while shopping a lot easier for dieters. The Servings Per Container line has also been enlarged, as has the methodology used to calculate these servings. 20-ounce bottles of soda would be counted as one single serving, instead of 2.5 smaller servings. On ice cream cartons, half-cup servings will be increased to a full cup to reflect how much ice cream people generally eat. Serving size updates are only being proposed on 17 percent of the approximately 150 categories of packaged food monitored by the FDA, the Times reports. Today's serving-sized guidelines were put into place back in 1994.

Fda_labels_500

The FDA's old labels (left) and new labels (right)

Also updated are a left-justified Daily Value column that makes parsing numbers simpler, and an Added Sugars section right below Sugars meant to highlight one of the leading causes of obesity in America, according to the FDA's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The FDA seems to be hoping that food companies will cut down on manufacturing added sugars just like they did with Trans Fats when they were first denoted on labels few years ago. "Calories from Fat" has been notably removed, "because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount," the FDA says. Lastly, the labels would make Vitamin D and Potassium counts mandatory, while Vitamins A and C would be optional.

The FDA's deputy commissioner of foods Michael Taylor estimates that the transition would cost about $2 billion and two years to carry out, but could provide $30 billion in health benefits long-term. "Things like the size of a muffin have changed so dramatically," said FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. "It is important that the information on the nutrition fact labels reflect the realities in the world today."

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