FDA unveils changes to nutrition facts labels

WASHINGTON, D.C.; February 27, 2014

The government today said the major makeover should make it easier to understand what you are eating.

Right now, it can be very confusing.

You can find two packages of the same size that have different serving sizes and calorie-counts.

One change on the new label - calories are much more prominent.

First Lady Michelle Obama helped roll out the new changes.

"As consumers, and as parents, we have a right to know what's in the food we're feeding our families," said Mrs. Obama.

She said it was time for an overhaul.

Twenty years ago, when the labels were created, fat was a major focus.

But nutritionists now say calories and portion sizes are more important.

So new serving sizes will aim to show how many calories people are really eating.

For example, one serving of ice cream used to be half a cup.

But most people eat a full cup, and that's what the labels will reflect.

Soft drinks will change from an 8-ounce serving to 12 or 20 ounces - which is what most bottles and cans have.

One big addition to the label is 'added sugars.'

They make up a whopping 16 percent of the average diet, but don't add any nutrition.

Federal officials say that information will drive better choices.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told us, "They can know where their calories are coming from, and hopefully be able to shape a diet that's as healthy and nutrient-rich as possible."

Others aren't so sure changing labels will change behaviors.

Professor Jeremy Kees of the Villanova University School of Business says he's happy to see the changes, though there is little solid evidence that consumers will have a better understanding of food nutrition.

He told Action News that putting nutrition information on the front of packages would drive healthy choices more.

In addition, manufacturers will have to spend a lot to make the changes to their packaging.

However, he does think the new labels will change how food is made.

"As food manufacturers have to disclose the amount of added sugars relative to natural sugars, we might see some product reformulation in the marketplace," says Prof. Kees.

Organizations and the public will now have ninety days to comment, then the FDA will write and issue its final rule.

Consumers could see the new labels in about 2 years.

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