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FDA new food label proposals strive to make the outside match what's inside

The proposed look of new labeling recommendations proposed by U.S. FDA.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced food labeling recommendations this week it says are designed to help consumers make informed choices about what they eat based on the latest nutritional data.

For those people who have consumed a single bag of chips, for example, only to discover the bag was actually 2.5 servings, the new recommendations should be welcomed.

With First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday, the FDA recommended updates to the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. Among the most notable recommendations is updating serving size data – which was first put into place in 1994 – to better align with how much people really consume of a given food item. Most of the serving sizes will be adjusted upward, the FDA said.

Another key change would be the addition of dual columns on labels to indicate per-serving and per-package calorie information for packaged food that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. People who decide to consume an entire bag of snacks, for example, would know the nutritional impact of doing so without having to calculate it themselves.

The recommendations are to ensure "that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” Obama said in an FDA news release.

With sugary drinks and other "empty calorie" snacks being linked to obesity and diabetes, the new label recommendations also would require information about the amount of “added sugars” in foods. Some products naturally contain sugar, but sometimes additional sugar is added during the manufacturing process.

Nutritionists and the fitness community have long recommended attention to healthy eating as a critical element in a weight-loss program, coupled with exercise. “Back the Saddle to Fit: 10 Steps to Reclaiming Athletic Fitness for the Busy Professional,” for example, focuses on a “60/40 proposition,” where 60 percent of a person’s focus should be on making good nutritional choices in a weight-loss program, with the remaining emphasis on exercise. Two of three Americans are overweight or obese.

The FDA will allow a 90-day public comment period, after which final rules would be developed. Once finalized, companies would have two years to comply with the regulations.

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