Newswise — It’s been 20 years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced the food label, the informational nutrition label required to be printed on all packaged foods. Consumers today are more tuned into nutrition than ever before, as dieting and weight-loss have become important to many Americans. The FDA believes that knowledge about nutrition has shifted over the past two decades, and, because of this evolution, has decided it is time for a nutrition label makeover.
Erin Winterhalter MPH, RDN, LDN, CDE, the director of the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education at Villanova University’s College of Nursing, is available to discuss the proposed changes to the food label. She has offered some initial comments, here:
The proposed food label is much improved! I applaud the FDA for highlighting calories with a bigger, bolder look and simplifying the information provided. The idea of added sugars is genius- it’s going to first make people stop and think about the unnecessary, nonnutritive calories we consume and it may even make food manufacturers think twice about adding extra sugar to their product. As consumers become more educated, eating habits change and therefore the demand of certain products- i.e. juices, sodas, cookies, and cakes with boatloads of sugar may go down. I also appreciate the actual amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin D and potassium listed rather than just percent of daily value. And the addition of Vitamin D is fabulous. We’re educating clients daily on the importance of Vitamin D and I’m happy to see it included.
Two areas still needing improvement – The "one size fits all" approach the FDA can’t seem to break away from. The percent daily values are based off a 2000 calorie diet which really means nothing to a child needing 1200-1400 calories or an athletic male needing close to 2500-3000 calories per day.
And finally, Let’s add some pizazz! Identifiable colors on the label – like your red, yellow, green stoplight system may work here. If the product is low in sodium, let’s highlight that and mark it in green. If it’s a high sodium food, the label could reflect this information in red. By adding color or images (like a thumbs up or a thumbs down) you lower the literacy level of the label and it instantly becomes easier for consumers to understand.