FDA Proposes Nutritional Label Changes

Have you ever indulged your sweet tooth on a pint of ice cream only to find, much to your chagrin, that the amount of calories you thought you were consuming were for a serving size of only one quarter of the carton?

Well, fear not self-indulgers, the United States Food and Drug Administration has proposed a change to the current nutrition facts label found on packaged goods.

"Our goal is to make it easier to make healthier choices," said Rosario Quintanilla Vior, Public Affairs Specialist for the FDA. "Serving sizes need to be more reflective of what people are actually eating."

The proposed change would not only update the serving sizes listed on current packaging, but also make the caloric content of each package much more prominent. By printing the calories in larger, bolder print the FDA hopes to draw the consumer's attention more easily and help them make healthier decisions.

"People eat a pint of ice cream and may not realize its for four servings. If you consume it all, you are actually consuming four times the calories listed," said Quintanilla-Vior.

Dona-Rae Richwine, a nutrition professor at Santa Monica College, warns of the risk of intaking too many calories.

"If you consume more calories than your body can use you will store them as fat," said Richwine. "Excess fat storage leads to weight gain. Excess weight gain can lead to obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer."

That's the goal the FDA is trying to obtain; the prevention of major diseases linked to obesity. Information is power, and knowing the actual amount per serving that consumers are eating will hopefully lead to healthier decisions in the future.

Much of the basis for the proposed changes come from studies and surveys done by the FDA and various independent associations, such as the Institute of Medicine, in 2010.

This type of proposed change is not without its objections, however.

Changes to nutrition facts labels are significant because they not only affect the consumer, but also the industries that make the products. It may be harder for brands like Ben & Jerry's or Nabisco to sell their products if the nutrition facts labels have "900 Calories Per Serving" printed in bold face on the carton.

This is why Quintanilla-Vior urges citizens to comment on the proposal, an option that is open to the public through the website, www.regulations.gov.

"We need to have the feedback of all stakeholders in these issues," said Quintanilla-Vior.

The proposal is open to comments for a 90-day period, after which time all comments are reviewed by the FDA, applied to the proposal, and then it is revised and reopened for public comment.

"I like the new label," said Richwine. "The revised serving sizes that reflect what someone will actually consume makes so much sense. Seeing 350 calories versus 140 should have a bigger impact."

One might draw a link between increases in serving sizes and the higher percentage of obesity here in America. Does this mean that Americans are eating more per serving on average than they used to, or were the serving sizes that are currently listed on the nutrition facts labels too small to begin with?

"We're not trying to set serving sizes," said Quintanilla-Vior. "We need to survey and make sure serving sizes are reflective of what people are actually eating."

Regardless of the impetus behind the change, the desired result remains the same. By providing updated information on what people are actually consuming in this country, consumers will be more empowered to make healthier choices.

Those who wish to comment on the proposal or seeking more information are encouraged to visit www.regulations.gov.

Patrick Shanley1 Comment