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How Might the Proposed Changes to Nutrition Facts Labels Affect Consumers?

March 20, 2014

Rincker, a 2013 graduate of the College’s MS in Human Nutrition Program, has worked as a Dietetic Intern at Drexel since graduation and is planning to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam upon the completion of her internship in the fall. Rincker is completing a portion of her internship hours in Jerusalem at Hadassah Optimal Sports Clinic. Upon graduation, Rincker also introduced a campus eating guide for Drexel University.

Hearing about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts labels in the U.S. while I am studying in Israel is a pleasant reminder of the exciting issues that I will be jumping back into when I return home.  As a dietetic intern at a sports clinic in Jerusalem, I recognize the importance of the Nutrition Facts label as a tool to help people make informed, healthy food choices.  The athletes I am working with use nutrition in order to meet their personal performance goals. This population is exceptionally motivated to incorporate healthy nutrition choices into their life, but like everyone else, they need effective tools to help make their food selections. The proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts labels will potentially make it easier for all consumers to meet their personal health goals.

According to the FDA, the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts labels are centered on two core principles: first, to respond to the changing public health profile (e.g. obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes), and second, to reflect new scientific information on daily values and dietary recommendations.  The entire project keeps a sharp focus on positive consumer experience by including consumer research throughout the proposal process. 

Some of the highlights of the proposed label designs include:

  • Calorie counts are bigger and bolder.  Visually, this will be the most prominent feature to provide quick recognition by the consumer.
  •  “Added Sugars” will be listed, supplying consumers with knowledge needed to follow recommendations for Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA 2010).
  • “Total Fat Calories” will no longer be listed.  This is a piece of the visual streamlining.  Current science suggests type of fat rather than overall fat in increased risks of chronic disease.
  • Serving Sizes get a reality check.  The serving size will now reflect the amount a person typically eats.  Consumers will get an upfront view of what they are consuming.

The proposed changes are bold and are due in part to a direct push from First Lady Michelle Obama.  Obama has been extremely vocal in her fight for better health for Americans by encouraging physical activity, healthy eating, and food industry participation in making healthy choices easier for consumers.  There will undoubtedly be strong pushback from the food industry in making the proposed label changes, but they are unlikely to directly attack Obama. She provides a shield of sorts for the FDA to present such a bold proposal. 

The next step of the proposal process includes a public comment period. When I leave my comment, I will be commending the proposed changes as well as noting the need for lower sodium daily values. The current proposal cuts the value from 2400mg of sodium to 2300mg. The FDA spells out their justifications for not lowering the sodium daily value in their full report (below), but the argument is vague and the scientific consensus is that excessive salt intake is linked to cardiovascular disease. 

I want to encourage my fellow Drexel Dragon health professionals to also voice their comments on the proposed Nutrition Facts label changes. 

For more information:

FDA summary here

Full Report here

The Public Comment Period is open through June 2, 2014. Comment HERE.

by Jamie C. Rincker