First Lady Announces Changes to Nutrition Labels

by Christine Hronec

 
First lady Michelle Obama announced Thursday, 3/27/14, that the US Food and Drug Administration is revamping the nutrition label on 700,000 food products. The goal: to not only more accurately represent how and what Americans eat, but to better point out what they should be eating. The belief is that parents should be able to walk into a grocery store and determine if an item is good for the family. With all the new information and science available on clean eating and nutrition, this will be the first major change to the FDA label in over 20 years. This change demands that food companies include the following:

1.) Realistic serving sizes
2.) Break Out the Amount of Added Sugar
3.) Increased Font Size of Calorie Count

The public will have 90 days to comment before a final label is developed, and manufacturers will have two years to make the changes, which are expected to cost about $2 billion. The new label is consider a major health policy change according to the FDA. In 2013, the USDA reports the only 42% of Americans actually check nutrition labels. Where the average consumer spends only 6 seconds making a purchasing decision based on nutritional quality. Mrs. Obama says that this is not enough time for one to make an educated decision to figure out the math on a current labels.

This change is a huge step forward reflecting new scientific thinking about diet and weight. By forcing food companies to list full serving sizes, consumers will be seeing increased calories for the first time, not just cleverly marketed packages showing people what they want to see. The big change will be revealed in the added sugars component. Food producers will now have to identify which ingredients are “added” sugars versus which ones are naturally occurring.

At the end of the day, this push is towards providing labels based on realistic serving sizes that reflect how people actually consume products. Where no one has ever eaten a ½ cup serving of ice cream, the new serving size will be one cup. Marketers and food companies need to be prepared for the costs in the labeling changes as well as the changes in product positioning. The overall benefit is that the nation is being directed towards healthier eating decisions which will only continue to grow the need products geared toward maintaining a healthy weight.

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