Nutrition labels should be clear, accurate and easy to understand, helping consumers make informed choices about the foods they eat. A proposal to overhaul the labels by the Food and Drug Administration takes steps to make clearer what's on America's plates. The public and food companies should embrace the recommended changes and use them as a tool in the war on obesity and food-related illnesses.
The federal government began requiring nutrition labels on products in the 1990s. Since then, nutritionists have taken aim at the labels' weaknesses, calling them out of step with current eating habits and arguing they reflect what the American diet should be rather than what it is. Current labels also engage in sleight of hand. For example, they list nutrition facts for one serving of soda when a 20-ounce container has more than twice that amount and is likely to be consumed in one sitting.
The proposal seeks to clear up any discrepancies. New labels will feature revised portion sizes to reflect current eating trends and larger type sizes for calories and servings per container. Plans also call for a separate line for added sugars, which carry greater health risks than naturally occurring sugars. The new rules likely will go into effect after a 90-day comment period. Food manufacturers will have two years to change their product labels.
Anyone who thinks nutrition labels don't matter need only look to the past. When the FDA required food companies to list the amount of trans fats in their products in 2006, manufacturers responded by lowering the amount they put in food. The new labels could further encourage food companies to make healthier offerings or, at the very least, to inform consumers of exactly what they're eating. In