Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New food labels to highlight calories and sugar

WASHINGTON — Those "Nutrition Facts" labels on nearly every food package in grocery stores are getting a new look.

Calories would be in larger, bolder type, and consumers would know whether foods have added sugars under label changes proposed by the Obama administration Thursday. Serving sizes would be updated to make them more realistic. A serving of ice cream, for example, would double to a full cup, closer to what people actually eat.

The proposed overhaul comes as nutritionists' views have shifted. While fat was the focus two decades ago when the labels first were created, there is now more concern about how many calories we eat. And serving sizes have long been misleading, with many single-serving packages listing multiple servings, making their calorie count lower.

The idea isn't that people should eat more; it's that they should understand how many calories are in what they are actually eating. The Food and Drug Administration says that by law, serving sizes must be based on actual consumption, not ideal consumption.

"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 joined the Food and Drug Administration in announcing the proposed changes at the White House.

Obama made the announcement as part of her Let's Move initiative to combat child obesity, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary. On Tuesday, she announced new Agriculture Department rules that would reduce marketing of less-healthful foods in schools.

The first lady and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said one of the aims of the new labels is to make them less confusing for parents shopping at the grocery store. Hamburg called the revision "a more user-friendly version" of the current label.

The new labels are probably 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 the industry two years to comply.

The FDA projects food companies will have to pay around $2 billion as they change the labels. Companies have resisted some of the changes in the past, including listing added sugars on the label, but the industry is so far withholding criticism.

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."

President Pamela Bailey said in a statement that it is important to the food companies that the labels "ultimately serve to inform, and not confuse, consumers" but did not elaborate.

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 fiber. Potassium and vitamin D are new additions, based on current thinking that Americans aren't getting enough of those nutrients. Vitamin C and vitamin A listings are no longer required.

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

The proposed rules would also overhaul serving sizes for soda and single-serving packages. Both 12-ounce and 20-ounce sodas would be considered one serving, and many single-serving packages — a bag of chips, a can of soup or a frozen entree, for example — would either be listed as a single serving or list nutrient information by serving and by container.

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. Think an apple vs. applesauce, which comes in sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

David Kessler, who was FDA commissioner when the first Nutrition Facts were unveiled in the early 1990s, said he thinks focusing on added sugars and calories will have a "demonstrative public health benefit."

Kessler said the added sweetness, like added salt, drives overeating. And companies will adjust their recipes to get those numbers down.

"No food company wants products to look bad," he said.

New food labels to highlight calories and sugar 02/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay

    Preps

    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  2. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  3. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119
  4. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in

    Blogs

    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.