advertisement
27 February 2014

New US food labels highlight calories and sugar

Under proposed changes, new US food labels will make it easier to see calorie content and if foods contain any added sugars.

0

The Obama administration is proposing new food labels that would make it easier to know about calories and added sugars, a reflection of the shifting science behind nutrition.

Fat was the focus two decades ago when the labels first were created, but nutritionists are now more concerned with how many calories we eat

Under the proposed changes, calories would be in larger, bolder type on food labels, and consumers for the first time would know whether foods have added sugars.

Misleading serving sizes

Serving sizes would be updated. They have long been misleading, with many single-serving packages listing multiple servings, so the calorie count is lower.

"Our guiding principle here is very simple, 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," said first lady Michelle Obama, who was to join the Food and Drug Administration in announcing the proposed changes at the White House.

Mrs Obama was making the announcement as part of her Let's Move initiative to combat child obesity, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary.

Read: 27 ways to spend less on food

Still several years away

The new nutrition labels are likely several years away. The FDA will take comments on the proposal for 90 days, and a final rule could take another year. Once it's final, the agency has proposed giving industry two years to comply.

The FDA projects food companies will have to pay around $2 billion as they change the labels.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the industry group that represents the nation's largest food companies, did not respond to any specific parts of the proposal but called it a "thoughtful review".

Labels serve to inform

President Pamela Bailey said it was important to the food companies that the labels "ultimately serve to inform, and not confuse, consumers".

It was still not yet clear what the final labels would look like. The FDA offered two labels in its proposal – one that looks similar to the current version but is shorter and clearer, and another that groups the nutrients into a "quick facts" category for things like fat, carbohydrates, sugars and proteins.

 There also would be an "avoid too much" category for saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars; and a "get enough" section with vitamin D, potassium, calcium, iron and fibre.

Read: Nutrition basics in a nutshell

Both versions list calories above all of those nutrients in a large, bold type.

The inclusion of added sugars to the label was one of the biggest revisions. Nutrition advocates have long asked for that line on the label because it's impossible for consumers to know how much sugar in an item is naturally occurring, like that in fruit and dairy products, and how much is added by the manufacturer.

Adding sugar

According to the Agriculture Department's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars contribute an average of 16% of the total calories in US diets. Though those naturally occurring sugars and the added sugars act the same in the body, the USDA says the added sugars are just empty calories, while naturally occurring ones usually come along with other nutrients.

There's evidence that more people are reading food labels in recent years.

A USDA study released earlier this year said 42% of working adults used the panel always or most of the time in 2009 and 2010, up from 34% two years earlier. Older adults were more likely to use it.

Picture: Food label shocker from Shutterstock


Read more:

Parents' guide to food labels

Food labels = healthier choices

Food expiration labels misleading


AP

 
NEXT ON HEALTH24X

More:

News
advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

The debate continues »

Working out in the concrete jungle 7 top butt exercises for guys 10 things pole dancing can do for you

The running vs. walking debate

There are many different theories when it comes to the running vs. walking for health and weight loss.

Veganism a crime? »

Running the Comrades Marathon on a vegan diet Are vegans unnatural beasts? Can a vegan be really healthy?

Should it be a crime to raise a baby on vegan food?

After a number of cases of malnourishment in Italy, it may become a crime to feed children under 16 a vegan diet.