On Friday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled its long-awaited new requirements for food labels. Although they superficially look similar to the old ones, the content and calculations will be new. The changes were made to give more accurate health information that is reflective of new research as well as government recommendations on what constitutes a healthy diet.
Companies have two years to incorporate the changes into their labels. The labels were introduced by First Lady Michelle Obama, who announced them during the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Obama has been an activist against childhood obesity during her time as First Lady.
Nutritional labels are designed to let consumers know what is inside their food. Things such as salt, sugar, fat, protein and vitamins and minerals can be found on most food labels, which also include the percentage of recommended daily intake. The recommended daily intake values have not changed since their introduction in 1993. However, the government has updated its nutritional guidelines multiple times, with the most recent in January of 2016.
Here’s what changed on the new labels.
1. Serving Sizes
Serving sizes now reflect what people currently eat rather than what the food manufacturers suggest people eat. This is a controversial change. Serving sizes now will show, for example, that one whole bag of chips is a serving. Some have criticized this move because people could interpret the serving size as a recommendation that someone eat an entire bag of chips. The FDA disagrees, based partly on their insistence that people already eat the entire bag of chips rather than breaking it down into 3 serving sizes of a few chips. The FDA also says not all serving sizes will go up. They cited yogurt, for instance, as something they believe will go down with the new label.