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FDA cooking up helpful new nutrition facts label

LOS ANGELES — Uncle Sam wants you to know more about what you're eating.

The Food and Drug Administration is revising the nutrition facts label — that breakdown of fats, salts, sugars and nutrients on packaging — to give consumers more useful information and help fight the national obesity epidemic.

A proposal is in the works to change several parts of the label, including more accurate serving sizes, a greater emphasis on calories and a diminished role in the daily percent values for substances like fat, sodium and carbohydrates.

It's the latest attempt to improve the way Americans view food and make choices about what they eat, and comes in the wake of major advances in nutrition regulations by the Obama administration.

Calorie counts are popping up on menus of chain restaurants across the country, and the longstanding food pyramid was toppled this year by the U.S. government in favor of a plate that gives a picture of what a healthy daily diet looks like.

The struggle to redesign the labels on every box, can and carton has been in the works since 2003, and some of the changes could be proposed as soon as this year. FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor cautions not to expect a grand overhaul, but the revamped label does mark a shift to create a more useful nutritional snapshot of foods millions of Americans consume every day.

The revised label is likely to produce several changes, said Taylor. For starters, portion sizes should better reflect reality. The 2.5 servings listed on a 20-ounce soda bottle are typically slurped up by an individual in one sitting.

The FDA is also likely to find a way to emphasize calories, which many people rely on for weight control. Other items likely to disappear or change because they haven't proved useful include calories from fat and the daily percent value numbers that show how much what an average diet should include.

The food industry wouldn't like to see many major changes. The current label is easily recognizable and adaptable to food packages of different sizes because it's simple, said Regina Hildwine, director for science, policy, labeling and standards at the Grocery Manufacturers Association. But advocates of the changes believe that the government and industry are too cozy.

FDA cooking up helpful new nutrition facts label 09/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 3, 2011 11:18pm]
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