WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a makeover to the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods that would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat. Several other modifications to the 20-year-old design are intended to help consumers make informed choices based on the latest in nutrition science.
"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," said first lady Michelle Obama. "So this is a big deal, and it's going to make a big difference for families all across this country."
The label would update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat rather on what they "should" be eating, according to the USDA. Thus, the new design would present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting.
Dual-column labels would indicate both "per serving" and "per package" calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one or multiple sittings.
"Total fat," "saturated Fat," and "trans fat" would continue to appear on the label, but "calories from fat" would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount, according to the FDA.
The proposed label change would also require information about the amount of added sugars in a food product based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which states that intake of added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced.
The modernized Nutrition Facts label would require the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, nutrients that are deficient in many consumers' diets. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label, but manufacturers could declare them voluntarily.
The new rules would also revise the "percent daily values" for a variety of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
The new label format would emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and percent daily value, which the FDA considers to be key to addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.
The Nutrition Facts label has been required on food packages for 20 years and has not changed significantly since 2006 when manufacturers were mandated to add trans fat content to packaging. That move prompted many packaged food makers to reduce partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fat, in many of their products.
The proposed changes 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 agency is accepting public comment on the proposed changes for 90 days.