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Nutrition label

US: FDA revising the 20-year-old food nutrition labels

With new knowledge about nutrition and more evidence that people actually consult the labels of food packages, the US FDA is finally giving the 20-year-old American nutrition label an update. A process that’s been ten years in the making, new guidelines for the label have been sent to the White House for review.

“The food environment has changed and our dietary guidance has changed,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, according to The Associated Press. “It’s important to keep this updated so what is iconic doesn’t become a relic.”

According to the FDA, the use of nutrition labels is increasing, with about 54 percent of consumers saying they use the label to choose healthier food options.

In response, many companies have taken steps to make foods more healthful and appealing to nutrition-conscious consumers.  For instance, many food manufacturers have removed trans fat from their items because of an increased public knowledge of its links to heart disease.

“The agency is working toward publishing proposed rules to update the nutrition facts label and serving size information to improve consumer understanding and use of nutrition information on food labels,” said Juli Putnam, a media spokesperson for the FDA in an email to TIME. “For example, the initial nutritional facts label focused on fat in the diet. There is now a shift to focus on calories to help consumers construct healthy diets.”

The FDA isn’t revealing much about exactly what is changing and when Americans will see the revised label. But nutrition experts have long called for more straightforward and updated labels.

For example, many think calories should be a bigger feature and the amount of added sugar should also be listed. Things that are important to keeping a healthy diet like portion or serving sizes should also be clearer, as the AP reports.

Other things that nutritionists hope the FDA will change include more clarity on the amounts of wheat added to products, since many processed foods claim to add the fibre-rich ingredient, even if it’s in small quantities.

The AP reports that the FDA is also aware that many consumers aren’t familiar with the metric measurement system that labels currently use to measure ingredients, typically in grams. And there is also a push for putting the labels on the front of packaging, in a more prominent position, which the FDA has considered in the past.

 

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