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FDA Proposes Updates to Nutrition Facts Labeling for First Time in Two Decades

Updated: 8/14/21 9:00 amPublished:

On February 27, the FDA published proposed regulations to update nutrition fact labels that would make the familiar labels undergo a dramatic change for the first time in two decades. The changes include more noticeable calorie counts, an increased focus on added sugars, and nutrition information based on more realistic serving sizes. These are welcome changes for the public as well as for people with diabetes and will hopefully make it easier to get clear and understandable information about what we’re eating. 

The changes will emphasize the link between our food intake and chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Labels will require information about the amount of “added sugars” from the production process above and beyond what is naturally present in foods. For the average American, added sugars account for 16% of total daily calories, with many of them from soda, energy drinks, grain-based foods, desserts, and sweetened fruit drinks.

The updated labels will also address the outdated serving sizes still used in labeling – a big win for people with diabetes. For years, the public has been confused by the need to adjust the nutrition information for serving size – for example, a 20 ounce bottle of soda that is usually consumed in one sitting is often labeled as 2.5 servings of eight-ounces instead of just one. This means that the whole bottle actually contains two or three times the sugars and carbohydrates mentioned on the label! The new label would reflect serving sizes that people currently eat instead of what they “should” be eating.

These changes are also in line with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, which aims to provide more information to consumers and make healthier choices easier. The proposed changes will be open for public comment for 90 days here. The FDA will consider these comments as they draft the final regulations. After the final publication, the food industry will be given two years to change their labeling, and as we understand it, the process could take three to four years before changes will be implemented. –NL 

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