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 The proposed label also would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and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.

The Week in Review

— by Sen. Bernie Sanders

The Senate voted Wednesday to back a new Environmental Protection Agency rule to cut the sickening levels of mercury pollution now spewed from coal-fired power plants. On Thursday, senators passed a sweeping new farm bill, but said no to an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to let states require labels on genetically modified food.  Community health centers were in the news.  A new round of grants was announced on Wednesday to operate 219 new centers, part of a dramatic expansion of affordable primary health care authorized by a Sanders provision in the Affordable Care Act.  On Friday, Sen. Sanders talked with the audience of the Thom Hartmann about the farm bill which passed this week in the senate.

Listen to Sen. Sanders on the Thom Hartmann show here.

Power Plant Pollution The EPA rule on power plant pollution survived a resolution to roll it back. The resolution was offered by Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe. “To Senator Inhofe and others, I say, respectfully, stop poisoning our children,” Sanders said. A member of the Senate environment and energy committees, Sanders also said retrofitting power plants will create thousands of good-paying jobs. Watch

Health Centers There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday to mark the opening of a new $11 million home for the Community Health Center of Burlington. Then on Wednesday more than $128 million was awarded in a new round of grants under the Affordable Care Act to operate 219 community health centers around the country – including $160,417 for the first facility in Addison County. A Sanders provision in the 2010 health care reform law authorized $11 billion to double the number of health centers that provide affordable primary care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs and nationwide. Read more

Farm Bill The bill that the Senate passed and sent to the House would authorize $1 trillion over the next 10 years for price support and crop insurance programs. About $80 billion a year would go to the food stamp program, about $4.5 billion cut from current spending at a time,  as Sanders noted, “when poverty is increasing in America and when half of the people on Food Stamps are either children or the elderly.” The House plans even deeper cuts, he warned. House Republicans “are planning on cutting not $4 billion over a 10-year period, but over $130 billion over a 10-year period. They are really going to war against the very poorest children and senior citizens in this country. And that`s something we cannot allow to happen,” Sanders said. Watch

Food Labels The Senate rejected an amendment by Sanders to let states require clear labels on any food or beverage containing genetically engineered ingredients. The vote on the amendment to the farm bill was 26 to 73.  “This is the very first time a bill on labeling genetically engineered food has been brought before the Senate. It was opposed by virtually every major food corporation in the country. While we wish we could have gotten more votes, this is a good step forward and something we are going to continue to work on. The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what’s in the food that they eat,” he said. Read more

Dairy Farms Vermont’s congressional delegation hailed Senate passage of provisions in the five-year farm bill that would help dairy farmers. One provision would let farmers purchase insurance for times when milk prices decline. Another builds on legislation introduced two years ago when Sanders proposed a ‘supply management’ system for dairy farms.  The law is designed to break a cycle in which milk prices drop so farmers produce more but the flooded market then causes prices to fall even more.