FDA proposes changing food nutrition labels for 1st time in 20 years


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WASHINGTON —  The Obama administration is hoping to make healthy eating easier for Americans by announcing a makeover for all nutrition labels on pre-packaged foods.

The Food and Drug Administration’s proposed new rules would be the first upgrade in 20 years and would include changing the serving size and updating the recommended daily guidelines for various nutrients.

The guidelines will be announced on Thursday by first lady Michelle Obama in an event at the White House.

She has long been focused on getting Americans to have healthier eating habits.

“Folks are really starting to think about what they eat and how active they are, so they’re scrutinizing labels; they’re asking questions; they’re changing what they feed their families,” Mrs. Obama said earlier this week.

The new rules, which would go into effect two years after they are finalized, are redesigned to make it clearer for Americans to know how many calories they are consuming.

The labeling will also take into account how some foods are consumed in one sitting.

For example, the serving sizes for a bottle of soda will go from 8 ounces to 12 ounces. And the serving size for ice cream will increase from ½ cup to 1 cup. For yogurt, the serving size will be reduced from 8 ounces to 6.

Certain larger packages, such as a pint of ice cream, would also have two columns on the labels — “per serving” and “per package”.

Another addition is the requirement of “added sugars” to the label. The FDA hopes to curb Americans’ consumption of sugar added to products.

Joy Dubost, a registered dietician with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, supports the new regulations.

“Before you saw total carbohydrates and sugars; now you’re actually going to know how many grams of sugar or added grams of sugar are in that product,” Dubost told CNN. “So basically it differentiates between naturally occurring sugars in a product and those that are added to a product.”

The announcement comes as Mrs. Obama marks the fourth anniversary of her “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity. A new study using federal data says obesity in young children ages 2 to 5 has dropped 43% in the past decade.

While experts say those numbers are promising, there is still more work to do.

“We’re not certain what’s driven the decrease in childhood obesity and we’re far from out of the woods. We do know there have been a number of things going in the right direction,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There’s increased attention to childhood nutrition. There’s increased breastfeeding rates. Child cares are doing more physical activity.”

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