First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts have resulted in the FDA finalizing and approving a new nutrition facts label that manufacturers will have to conform to starting July 26, 2018. The move, a result of years of work done as part of the ‘Let’s Move’ initiative has received praise in the public space while some members of the scientific community feel the new label is inaccurate and misleading.
The new label basically has two core components – bigger, bolder text showing the calorie count of the food item and additional information regarding amount of processed sugars that was added and its respective weight in grams. Michelle Obama believes the new label will empower parents to make the right choice while buying food for their kids.
The FDA has said that eating patterns have greatly changed since the last time the label was modified, which was 20 years ago. Nutritionist Keri Gans says that serving size information should be relevant to the meal sizes people actually eat these days. Statistically, the change is huge. Nearly 800,000 food products are sold in the United States and surveys suggest 77% of US adults admit to checking nutrition information before making a purchase.
The other numbers at play here is the cost to players in the food industry – almost $640 million along with a total social cost of $1.4 billion. Scientists claim that the new nutrition facts label lacks scientific rigor and can easily mislead consumers while they’re making a purchase. A letter signed by several prominent scientists including Roger Clemens, a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee claims that the label is based on the 2015 guidelines when the committee lacked an expert on sugars.
On the other hand, Michelle Obama claims the information about added sugars is the most important change in the landmark move. The new label would differentiate between sugars that are naturally occurring in the manufacturing process (for example, milk) and sugars that are artificially added to a product for taste (like in candies and chocolates).
Other important information that is on the label includes vitamin and nutrient info. Vitamin D and Potassium are some of the essentialities that the general population has been observed to be deficient in. Calcium and Iron would be required whereas Vitamin A and C would not be mandatory anymore since deficiencies in those are rare. ‘Calories from fat’ would not be a part of the new label. Surveys show that people rarely understand the meaning of that section in the label, and that fat is actually required in a healthy diet.
The new USDA dietary guidelines are also definitely worth having a look at in order to stay updated and more informed.