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New Nutrition Labels Proposed by FDA Would Give More Accurate Look

By Ken Mandel   |   Friday, 28 Feb 2014 12:31 PM

Proposed new nutrition labels on 700,000 packaged foods would highlight calories, sugars, and more accurately reflect serving sizes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed the changes, which were announced Thursday by First Lady Michelle Obama. This is the first significant redesign of the "nutrition facts" in more than two decades.

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The previous labels had been based on eating habits and nutrition information from the 1970s and '80s, before Americans began eating larger portions. Federal health officials said the changes were important to align more closely with the modern diet.

"It's an amazing transformation," Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, told The New York Times. "Things like the size of a muffin have changed so dramatically. It is important that the information on the nutrition fact labels reflect the realities in the world today."

The new labels would also place a larger emphasis on the addition of certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D and potassium.

But the most noticeable change will come from an entire product being accounted for in the calorie count, rather than an unrealistic serving size. Few people only eat half a cup of ice cream, for example.

"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," first lady Michelle Obama said in a news release. "So this is a big deal, and it's going to make a big difference for families all across this country."

In addition, the proposed labels would eliminate the "calories from fat" line from labels, replacing it with the total calories per serving, as nutritionists have found that the type of fat taken in is more important than the calories from that fat. Breaking fat down in "saturated" and "trans fat" classifications will remain a part of the label.

"Now when Americans pull a product from the supermarket shelf, they will have a clear idea of how much sugar that product really contains," American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown told CNN.

A USDA study released last month showed 42 percent of working-age adults between 29-68 reviewed labels most of the time when shopping, an increase from 34 percent in 2007. Still, more than a third of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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