New Food Labels to Focus on Calories, Sugar

Many processed foods, including bottled tomato sauce, have added sugars, which would be required under the proposed label. (Danny Nicholson/Flickr)

Many processed foods, including bottled tomato sauce, have added sugars, which would be required under the proposed label. (Danny Nicholson/Flickr)

By Allison Aubrey, NPR

Ready for a reality check about how many calories you’re eating or drinking?

The proposed new nutrition facts panel may help.

“I’ve been hoping for years that the FDA would list added sugars,” — Marion Nestle, NYU Nutrition Professor 

The Obama administration Thursday released its proposed tweaks to the iconic black and white panel that we’re all accustomed to seeing on food packages.

The most visible change is that calorie counts are bigger and bolder — to give them greater emphasis.

In addition, serving sizes start to reflect the way most of us really eat. Take, for example, ice cream. The current serving size is a half-cup. But who eats that little?

Under the proposed new label, the serving size would become 1 cup. So, when you scoop a bowl of mint chocolate chip, the calorie count that you see on the label will probably be much closer to what you’re actually eating.

Another example: A 20-ounce bottle of soda would be labeled as one serving. And with that, the calorie count at the top would come closer to reality.

Another significant change: The new panel will include a separate line for added sugars.

This is aimed at helping consumers distinguish between the sugars that are naturally found in foods (such as the sugar in raisins found in cereal) from the refined sugars that food manufacturers add to their products.

“I’ve been hoping for years that the FDA would list added sugars,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, tells us. “I definitely think it’s helpful.”

As we’ve reported, there’s a solid body of evidence linking excessive sugar consumption to an increased risk of heart disease and other ailments.

And the intent here, senior administration officials say, is to help cue Americans to consume less of it. Despite industry opposition to the listing of added sugars, officials say they’re confident the science is strong enough to justify adding it to the label.

Proposed new food label from the Food and Drug Administration.

Proposed new food label from the Food and Drug Administration.

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