The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed revisions to the Nutrition Facts label that would emphasize the number of calories and servings per container, among other things. As the agency explained in a February 27, 2014, press release, the new panels would not only display calories per serving in larger, bolder type, but would update serving sizes to reflect “the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data.” In addition to breaking out the amount of added sugar as a separate item, the labels would make “the number of servings per package… more prominent,” with “amount per serving” tied to the actual serving size, e.g., “Amount per cup.” FDA has also recommended updating the daily values for various nutrients, listing potassium and vitamin D amounts on the label, and removing “calories from fat” completely.

“Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems,” said FDA Center for Food safety and Applied Nutrition Director Michael Landa. “The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems. Further, we are now proposing to require the listing of added sugars. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing calories from added sugars and solid fats.”

FDA plans to issue the changes in two proposed rules slated for publication in the Federal Register with a 90-day comment period. The first proposed rule will address the updates to the nutrition information as well as the label design, while the second proposed rule will cover changes to serving-size require- ments and labeling for certain sizes of packages. Once adopted, the final rules governing the new Nutrition Facts labels would grant industry a two-year compliance period.

The proposal has drawn praise from consumer advocates such as the Center for science in the Public Interest; former FDA Commissioner David Kessler;  and New York university Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle, who nevertheless anticipated that the redesign would be “wildly controversial.” At the same time, however, university of North Carolina health researcher Barry Popkin apparently believes the planned changes do not go far enough. “This is a false victory,” he said. “It will affect just a small segment of customers who carefully study nutrition fact panels.” See CSPI News Release, Food Politics and The New York Times, February 27, 2014.