New Food Labels Target Added Sugar, Serving Size

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ABOVE VIDEO: reports on the new nutrition labeling revisions proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Thursday, the Obama administration proposed the first major revision of nutrition labels on food and beverages in more than 20 years. The changes focus on total calorie information, including the amount of added sugars and serving sizes.

It is well established that foods high in added sugar are directly associated with a myriad of health problems.
It is well established that foods high in added sugar are directly associated with a myriad of health problems.

As reported in in early February, over the past two decades research has firmly linked “added” dietary sugars, which include table sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses and other caloric sweeteners in prepared and processed foods and beverages, to the development of obesity, high blood pressure, increased triglycerides (blood fats), low HDL (good) cholesterol, fatty liver problems, death from cardiovascular disease, as well as making insulin less effective in lowering blood sugar.

Administration officials believe that the revisions will allow people to better understand how they are really consuming food and beverages, lead consumers to make more healthful food choices and encourage the food industry to reformulate some products, particularly those with high amounts of added sugar.

In the MedPage Today article excerpted below, Kristina Fiore details the changes and interviews several experts in the field of nutrition and food policy regarding the rationale for and the projected impact of the revisions.

— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief

MEDPAGE TODAY — FDA plans to roll out new nutrition labels and this time the emphasis is not only on calories, but also on serving size and sugar.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the update reflects new scientific information that has evolved since the labels first appeared 20 years ago.

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, a food policy expert at NYU, said she was “stunned” by the new guideline.

“The new food label is a big step forward. It emphasizes calories, added sugars, and updated portion sizes,” she said in an email to MedPage Today. “I never thought the FDA would have the courage to do this. It will not be comfortable for makers of packaged foods of low nutritional quality.”

FDA’s proposed new nutrition facts label that highlights serving sizes and excesses of detrimental components, such as added sugar and saturated fat.

One draft image of the guideline show that the number of calories will be the focal point, printed in big, bold type. The number of servings per container also stands out in order to reinforce the message that calorie counts go up with the number of servings consumed.

FDA said the new graphic replaces out-of-date serving sizes that better align with how much people really eat, noting that U.S. food consumption has changed drastically over the last 20 years.

Also in that draft image, the “added sugars” section is nested under the “sugars” category within the total carbohydrate class.

All fat types will still be listed, but FDA wants to nix “calories from fat” because research has shown that fat type is more important than the amount.

While vitamin D and potassium will still be labeled, companies will no longer have to declare vitamin A and C contents, although they can do so voluntarily, the agency said.

Daily values for sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D will also get a revision.

Hamburg said the changes reflect research linking diet and chronic disease, for example connecting the dots from obesity to diabetes and heart disease.

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