After having used the same nutrition label for about two decades, the Food and Drug Administration is finally making a move to update it, in an attempt to address the health concerns of the times.
In the existing nutrition label, which has been in use since the early 1990s upon the behest of Congress, the nutrients are listed in grams, which consumers today don't really understand. The existing label also lists around twenty more substances that people aren't routinely familiar with.
"There's a feeling that nutrition labels haven't been as effective as they should be," Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told The Associated Press. "When you look at the label, there are roughly two dozen numbers of substances that people aren't intuitively familiar with."
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs carries the summary of the rule on its website. The anticipated costs and benefits are stated as such: "If finalized, this rule will affect all foods that are currently required to bear nutrition labeling. It will have a significant cost to industry because all food labels will have to be updated. Much of the information currently provided on the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels is based on old reference values and scientific information. The proposed changes would provide more current information to assist consumers in constructing a healthful diet. The potential benefit from the proposed rule stems from the improvement in diet among the U.S. population. Diet is a significant factor in the reduction in risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity."
The proposed rule has already been sent to the White House for review, and the full details of the draft regulations are not available to the public yet. Jacobson says that the FDA may make the proposals public by March 20.
Nutrition experts and health advocates have long called for an update on the standard nutrition label. They suggested that the new label include the percentage of whole wheat actually in the product, as well as clearer measurements that uses teaspoons as a unit of measure, as teaspoons are easier for consumers to understand than grams. They also clamored that servings sizes be made clearer, and that the entire label be placed on the front of the packaging, for more visibility and ease of reading.