In this Jan. 23, 2014 file photo, the nutrition facts label on the side of a cereal box is photographed in Washington. Nutrition facts labels on food packages are getting a long-awaited makeover, with calories listed in bigger, bolder type and a new line for added sugars. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File/Thinkstock)
Food labels are getting a makeover
May 31, 2016
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Nutrition facts labels on food packages are getting a long-awaited makeover. Calories will be listed in bigger, bolder type. A new line will be included for added sugars.
Serving sizes will be updated to make them more realistic. A small bag of chips won't count as two or three servings, for example.
First lady Michelle Obama is expected to announce the final rules for new labels in a speech May 27. It will be part of her "Let's Move!" campaign to combat childhood obesity. The changes were first proposed by the Food and Drug Administration two years ago. They are the first major update of the labels since they were created in 1994. The labels are now found on more than 800,000 products.
"This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices," the first lady said in a statement.
The overhaul comes as the science has changed in recent decades. Fat was the focus in the 1990s when the labels first were created. Now there is more concern about how many calories people eat. The calorie listing will now be much larger than the rest of the type on the label. That will make it hard to overlook.
Serving sizes will also be easier to see. They will be listed at the top of the graphic. And it will be easier to determine how many servings are in a container, part of the attempt to revise long-misleading serving sizes.
Calculations for serving sizes will also be revised. The idea behind listing a whole package of food, or a whole drink, as one serving size isn't that people should eat more; it's that they should understand how many calories are in what they are actually eating. The FDA says that by law, serving sizes must be based on actual consumption, not ideal consumption.
Nutrition advocates have long asked for the added sugars line on the label. That is because it's impossible for consumers to know how much sugar in an item is naturally occurring, like those in fruit and dairy products, and how much is added by the manufacturer. Think an apple vs. applesauce, which comes in sweetened and unsweetened varieties.
Another change to the labels will be the introduction of levels of potassium and Vitamin D. They are two nutrients Americans don't get enough of. Vitamin C and Vitamin A listings are no longer required but can be included. Iron and calcium will stay.
The food industry has two years to comply.
Reaction to the labels from food companies has been mixed since they were first proposed. Some companies have fought the new line for added sugar. Others have supported it. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the food industry's largest companies, has supported the larger print for calories.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why will the change in “serving size” help people know the impact of the food they eat?
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