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Nutrition label changes to further empower consumers

Labels with bolder lettering proposed to help consumers watch their servings sizes and the nutrients consumed.
Labels with bolder lettering proposed to help consumers watch their servings sizes and the nutrients consumed.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) planning stages, is a proposal to improve nutrition labels with larger, bolder serving and calorie information, more realistic serving sizes and a more focused snapshot of nutrients we need and don't need. According to an article on the FDA website regarding these changes, health scientist Claudine Kavanaugh, PhD., M.P.H., R.D., noted, "it's all about providing information that people can use to make their own choices," a plus that Valerie in East Baltimore, will find particularly helpful.

"If you know the calorie intake per serving it helps with plans for [your] meal as a whole."

And she's not alone. Many local consumers have put label reading for maximum health benefits at the top of their list.

Dwayne, in Baltimore's Phoenix area said, "I read labels now and I look for the nutrition and calorie information. The calories for me by themselves can be very misleading. I feel that if you're only reading the calories you would be better off just cutting down on your portions."

In the Windsor Mill area of Baltimore, Dechelle "rarely look[s] at calories. I consult labels for the serving size, the amount of sodium, the amount of sugar and for the artificial ingredients."

On a Washington Journal segment Professor Anastasia Snelling, of the American University's School of Education, Teaching and Health, spoke of the proposed upgrade as a "key piece to an educational component in order to promote health nutrition [and] empower [consumers] to make the right choice for their family."

Empowering the consumer also means providing a serving size on the label with which consumers like Karen of Woodlawn, Baltimore can relate.

"I check for serving size as well as caloric content per serving," Karen said. Though she admits that she "never seem[s] to adhere to serving size anyway… I would like to have an idea of how much damage I'm doing."

Since 1994, the portion sizes on the labels aren't realistic experts say. Professor Snelling noted that the goal is to label foods to show how "calories reflect normal portion sizes so that people understand what they are really eating."

In other words, eating only a half-cup serving size of ice cream is unrealistic for most people. Since it's likely that most people will eat more at one sitting, the labels are proposed to reflect that, which makes sense to people like Valerie who relies on accurate information.

"I'm on this health kick. I'm very conscious of my calories intake per serving."

For 90 days, the FDA is allowing comments regarding these proposed changes to the nutrition labels. If you would like to make your voice heard, click on the www.regulations.gov site and comment here.