Changes may be coming to nutrition facts labels

BY Zachary Treu  February 25, 2014 at 6:12 PM EDT
The nutrition facts label may be getting a makeover soon. Photo by Flickr user Kiwikat88

The nutrition facts label may be getting a makeover soon. Photo by Flickr user Kiwikat88

The “nutrition facts” that appear on the sides of nearly all packaged foods and drinks in America may soon be seeing an overhaul, according to a Politico report.

On Thursday morning, Michelle Obama will “make an announcement regarding proposals to help parents and other consumers make healthier choices” as part of the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move!, her ongoing campaign against child obesity. These proposals are expected to call for an update to nutrition labeling, which has standards that have not been revised in more than 20 years.

Two rules proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 0910-AF22 and 0910-AF23, would “modernize the nutrition information found on the Nutrition Facts label, as well as the format and appearance of the label,” and “assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices.”

In the proposals, the FDA suggests that new evidence discovered in the last 18 years could be used to alter the content and appearance of the Nutrition Facts label, allowing consumers to use the information more effectively to keep healthy diets.

A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released last month, suggested that American adults have improved their eating habits over the past several years. Researchers from the Department found that 42 percent of working age adults and 57 percent of older adults use the nutrition facts panel “always or most of the time” when shopping for food.

On Tuesday, findings from a government study show that toddler obesity shrank sharply in the past decade.

Politico says that experts believe the changes will include a more visible calorie amount display, a more accurate description of serving sizes and a requirement that manufacturers include “added sugars” on the labels.

The food industry is expected to fight the proposals, especially the added sugars condition.

“Everyone in the industry is going to be affected. Everyone in the industry is going to have to change their labels,” Regina Hildwine, senior director of science policy and labeling and standards at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, told Politico. “It’s a very big deal. It’s very expensive.”

In 2008, NewsHour correspondent Lee Hochberg reported on the debate over a requirement to display nutritional information on restaurant menus.