FDA proposes updates to Nutrition Facts label on food packages

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today proposed to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The proposed label also would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes.

“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.”

Proposed“For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.”

Some of the changes to the label the FDA proposed today would:

  • Require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that intake of added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced. The FDA proposes to include “added sugars” on the label to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product.
  • Update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people “should” be eating. Present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting.
  • Present “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.
  • Require the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, nutrients that some in the U.S. population are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label, though manufacturers could declare them voluntarily.
  • Revise the Daily Values for a variety of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. Daily Values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
  • While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “TransFat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and Percent Daily Value, which are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.

CurrentThe proposed updates reflect new dietary recommendations, consensus reports, and national survey data, such as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrient intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The FDA also considered extensive input and comments from a wide range of stakeholders.

“By revamping the Nutrition Facts label, FDA wants to make it easier than ever for consumers to make better informed food choices that will support a healthy diet.” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “To help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems facing our country, the proposed label would drive attention to calories and serving sizes.”

The Nutrition Facts label has been required on food packages for 20 years, helping consumers better understand the nutritional value of foods so they can make healthy choices for themselves and their families. The label has not changed significantly since 2006 when information on trans fat had to be declared on the label, prompting manufacturers to reduce partially hydrogenated oils, the main source oftrans fat, in many of their products.

The changes proposed today 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 FDA is also proposing to make corresponding updates to the Supplement Facts label on dietary supplements where applicable.

The agency is accepting public comment on the proposed changes for 90 days.

For more information:

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Return to Sender

Saturday delivery is vital for the elderly, disabled, people in rural areas, and those who need medicine or equipment delivered to their doors.

By Fredric Rolando, President–National Association of Letter Carriers

Fredric Rolando

Rooted in the Constitution and older than the country itself, the U.S. Postal Service supports 7.5 million private-sector jobs in the mailing industry. The Postal Service is essential to the fast-growing Internet sales industry. And the USPS is navigating this struggling economy relatively well, even making an operating profit in the most recent quarter.

Yes, making a profit. When you count how much money the Postal Service earned on postage, and subtract how much it spent delivering the mail and paying related bills, the Postal Service earned a $100 million profit in the last three months of 2012. And remember, the USPS uses no taxpayer money.

So why all this talk about the Postal Service losing money? And why is Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe planning to end Saturday mail delivery?

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There’s no question the Postal Service faces big challenges. Both email and a struggling economy are dragging down mail volume. But the Postal Service’s financial problem is actually driven by Congress’s decision to “pre-fund” retiree health care costs. Beginning in 2007, the USPS has been required to pay 75 years of those costs in advance, and to do so within just ten years.

This pre-funding accounts for about 80 percent of the “losses” sustained by the Postal Service over the last six years that you’ve heard so much about. Indeed, that last quarterly profit was wiped out by a $1.4 billion pre-funding payment.

No other government agency or private company is required to pre-fund retiree healthcare. This isn’t the same thing as postal pensions, which should be, and are, pre-funded. Most businesses just pay retiree health care bills when they’re due, but the pre-funding law forces the USPS to pay these bills all at once, far in advance.

Any other company would use its available funds to modernize so it can stay healthy. The Postal Service should be taking advantage of the enormous growth in package delivery driven by Internet sales. Instead, because it must put every spare penny into pre-funding retiree healthcare, it’s stuck in crisis mode.

What’s more, the savings from dropping Saturday delivery would be much smaller than they appear. Cutting Saturday service will drive away some Monday-through-Friday customers too, such as magazine and newspaper publishers that may just switch to other delivery services for the entire week. A study by the Postal Regulatory Commission found that ending Saturday delivery would hurt the public and save significantly less than previous claims suggest.

Saturday delivery is particularly vital for the elderly, disabled, people in rural areas, and those who need medicine or equipment delivered to their doors. No other company provides universal delivery service to every address in the country, six days a week. Even private shippers such as FedEx and UPS use the U.S. Mail for up to a third of their final deliveries to customers’ doors because they can’t match the efficiency of the postal network.

Congress has required Saturday delivery by law for three decades. Instead of trying to defy Congress, Postmaster General Donahoe should urge lawmakers to fix the pre-funding problem and give the Postal Service room to adapt for the future.

Letter carriers aren’t waiting for Donahoe to figure this out. We’ll be out in full force across America on Sunday, March 24. At rallies in Mobile, Alabama, Bismarck, North Dakota, San Diego, California, and more than 100 other cities and towns, we’ll have a clear message for Congress — keep Saturday delivery, end the unnecessary pre-funding, and develop a real reform plan that gives the Postal Service the freedom to grow and innovate in the digital era.

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For more information or to find a rally near you, please visit deliveringforamerica.com.


Fredric Rolando is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents nearly 300,000 letter carriers across the country. NALC.org
Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org