After a decade of working toward revising 20-year-old nutrition facts labels, the Associated Press (AP) reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent guidelines for the new labels to the White House for review.
Although we don't yet know exactly what will change on labels and when manufacturers will have to implement such changes, calorie listings will likely be more prominent. As noted by Time, serving size information may change as well.
The AP article outlines a few desired changes that health and nutrition advocates' hope for. These include adding a line for sugars and syrups that are not naturally occurring in foods and drinks and added when processed and prepared; adding the percentage of whole wheat to the label (currently, a product can say it's "whole wheat" even if there's only a small percentage of it in the food); using more clear measurements (eg for added sugars, using teaspoons instead of, or alongside, grams); using serving sizes that make sense (eg basing them on portions one might or should eat in one sitting); and providing labels that highlight certain nutrients on the front of packages.
I, too, hope that the new labels make calories more prominent. Although I don't necessarily recommend that parents and children start counting calories, it is important—especially for children—to meet, and not exceed, daily calorie needs to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight as they grow. Using calorie information can be especially useful when comparing items that don't fit neatly into food groups or that tend to have lots of empty calories and are easy to overeat such as condiments, snacks and desserts.
Besides listing total sugars that include both naturally occurring sugars like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk and added sugars—sugars (like white sugar, brown sugar, honey) and syrups (like high fructose corn syrup) that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared), I really hope labels will specify how much of the total sugar comes from added sugars. Listing them not just in grams but also in teaspoons would also be helpful, especially when the American Heart Association and dietitians' recommendations for sugar intake are often in calories or teaspoons. Having information like this can be especially helpful when choosing foods that can have added sugars including canned or frozen fruit, flavored milk and yogurt, cereals, baked goods, ice cream, condiments and beverages.
I'd also love to see standardized serving sizes for similar foods such as ready-to-eat cereals. Standardizing serving sizes for cereal to 1 cup—a portion many people (including kids) consume—will make it that much easier to make comparisons and hopefully choose those with the least calories, most fiber and least sugar.
I also agree with my colleague Wendy Jo Peterson who told me on Facebook that she'd like to see Daily Value percentages removed since they're confusing and don't apply to everyone.
As soon as labels are officially updated, you—my loyal Scoop on Food readers—will be the first to know. Of course I'll also share with you ideas for how to use them to feed your children well. In the meantime, you can use this guide from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to understand current Nutrition Facts Panels.
What information would you like to see on the new food labels? And what information would you like to see removed from labels?
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Image of nutrition information being studied under a magnifying glass via shutterstock.