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New look for food labels

Kristen Fischer is a writer living at the Jersey Shore. In addition to writing for SheKnows, she has penned articles for Prevention, Health, Woman's Day, BELLA, and New Jersey Monthly. Kristen enjoys spending time with her family, friend...

More focus on sugar, servings

The FDA is proposing a new look — and improved content — to make nutrition labels clear and applicable to Americans.
Food labels
Current format (left), proposed format (right)
Photo credit: FDA

Nutrition labels are getting a makeover — and the goal is to make you look good.

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to update the label for "Nutrition Facts," which would be the first time since it was last done in the 1990s.

Why it's time

"Better food labeling can equip consumers with access to the most comprehensive information about the foods they consume," said Steven Smith, M.D., president of The Obesity Society.

"Modifications to the Nutrition Facts panel to reflect changes in serving size information, more prominently displayed total caloric content and the addition of total added sugar, among other changes, have the potential to help consumers truly understand what's in their food."

What will change?

The updated labels would have a bigger emphasis on — and larger font drawing the eye to — calories. It would also focus on added sugars and nutrients such as vitamin D, sodium and potassium. The new rules would also make it easier to determine a standard portion, some say. Drinks would likely all be one serving instead of large bottles with multiple servings. (Who really drinks eight ounces of a bottle? You probably finish the entire thing and the new label would show the nutritional content for the entire bottle.)

"This will help people better understand how many calories they actually consume, especially if they plan to eat all the food in a container or package," said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.

The breakdown of saturated and trans fat will stay, but it won't show "calories from fat," because many nutritionists are more focused on the type of fat ingested than how many calories are from it.

Officials said that 17 percent of current serving size requirements will be changing, and the FDA will tack on another 25 categories for products that weren't commonly around two decades ago.

The changes would affect packaged foods except some meat, poultry and processed egg products (those are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service).

What's next

When will this all take effect? The agency is open to public comment for 90 days, so you won't see changes overnight.

If this goes through, the label itself will look different, though. Check out the labels' proposed new look!

More nutrition news

The 5 steps of sugar rehab
The science behind your salt and sugar cravings
The benefits of chocolate milk

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