WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration released its proposed updates for the Nutrition Facts panel Feb. 27. Notable proposed changes include updating serving size requirements to reflect amounts people currently eat, and information about added sugars in a food product.
“To remain relevant, the F.D.A.’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the F.D.A.
The F.D.A. justified the inclusion of requiring added sugars on the label by referencing the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that said the intake of added sugars is too high in the U.S. population. With regard to changes to how serving sizes are reported, the F.D.A. said what and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994.
“By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people ‘should’ be eating,” the F.D.A. said.
Other proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts panel include:
• Present “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that may be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.
• Require the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, nutrients that some in the U.S. population are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label, though manufacturers could declare them voluntarily.
• Revise the Daily Values for a variety of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D. Daily Values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
• While continuing to require “total fat,” “saturated fat,” and “trans fat” on the label, “Calories from fat” would be removed because research has shown the type of fat is more important than the amount.
• Refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and Percent Daily Value, which are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.
“By revamping the Nutrition Facts label, F.D.A. wants to make it easier than ever for consumers to make better informed food choices that will support a healthy diet.” said Michael R. Taylor, the agency’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “To help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems facing our country, the proposed label would drive attention to calories and serving sizes.”
Public comment on the proposals will take place during the next 90 days.
“Diets, eating patterns and consumer preferences have changed dramatically since the Nutrition Facts were first introduced,” said Pamela G. Bailey, chief executive officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “Just as food and beverage manufacturers have responded by creating more than 20,000 healthier product choices since 2002, and by providing tools like Facts Up Front front-of-pack labels, the FDA is responding with a thoughtful review of the Nutrition Facts panel. We look forward to working with the F.D.A. and other stakeholders as these proposed updates to the Nutrition Facts label make their way through the rule making process. It is critical that any changes are based on the most current and reliable science. Equally as important is ensuring that any changes ultimately serve to inform, and not confuse, consumers.”