FDA Approves First Major Updates to Nutrition Labels in 20 Years

March 6, 2014
FDA Approves First Major Updates to Nutrition Labels in 20 Years

On February 27, 2014, the FDA proposed to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to make calorie counts and added sugars more noticeable.  Additionally, the new label would include updated serving sizes to more accurately reflect what people truly are eating.  These changes represent the most significant changes to the Nutrition Facts label since the early 1990s. 
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg touted the "new and improved, more user friendly" labels, which the FDA proposed would contain the following changes:
  • calorie information will be larger and in bold print
  • more detailed information regarding "added sugars" in a food product, such as whether the added sugars come from corn syrup, honey, sucrose or some other source
  • serving sizes will be larger to be more realistic when compared to how much people actually eat
  • references to "calories from fat" will be removed, switching the focus to the type of fat included in a food product 
In a February 27, 2014, blog posting, Hamburg addressed the concern with serving size information, explaining that "[c]ertain packages that are typically eaten in one sitting would be required to be labeled as a single serving, which would mean you would know how many calories and nutrients you are consuming for the whole package.  For example, a 20-ounce soft drink would be one serving under the proposal, not more."  Additionally, Hamburg explained that "[c]ontrary to what people might think, serving sizes on food packages are not recommended portions."
These changes were unveiled by First Lady Michelle Obama and tied to the fourth anniversary of her "Let's Move Campaign," which is dedicated to solving the problem of juvenile obesity.  While a number of nutrition experts see the proposed changes as a positive step, it is anticipated that food companies will object to one or more of the changes citing costs and other issues.
The FDA notice regarding the proposed changes was to be published in the March 3, 2014, Federal Register.  The FDA would then accept comments for 90 days following the publication.

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