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Proposed new food labels highlight calories and serving sizes

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed their proposal for updating food package Nutrition Facts labels in a Feb. 27 Consumer Update. The proposed design gives the calories per serving top billing in a large, bold font. The number of servings per package is also prominent on the new label, making it easier for consumer to know exactly what they are doing if they choose to eat that entire bag of potato chips.

"Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems. The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems.” — Michael Landa, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Nutrition Facts labels first appeared on food packages in 1993. Much has changed over the ensuing 20 years. According to the FDA, people are eating larger serving sizes and obesity and heart problems remain serious problems in the country. The updated label is an attempt to help consumer make smarter food choices.

Additional changes include adding a separate line for added sugars, elimination of “calories from fat” as the type of fat is more important than the total amount, and the amounts of vitamin D and potassium will be included on the new labels.

The FDA is also proposing that serving sizes reflect reality. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda is usually labeled as 2.5 servings while many consumer drink the entire bottle as one serving. The new law would require the food industry list serving sizes based on what people actually consume, not what they should consume.

The public is invited to comment on the new label design during the 90-day comment period. The FDA has two proposals published with the Federal Register, one to update nutritional information and one to make changes to serving size requirements. The FDA proposes giving the food industry two years to comply with any new regulations.

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