Ever find yourself in the grocery store squinting at that tiny font on the Nutrition Facts label, wondering why it's so complicated? You’re not alone!
That FDA-mandated, standardized Nutrition Facts label has been around since 1993, with little subsequent change. The label was instated to help inform the countless diet decisions we make daily in an effort to tackle climbing rates of obesity and chronic disease—and their resulting high costs to treat. Since the label’s early days, however, our eating habits have changed (mostly grown!). The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) estimates that greater than 50 percent of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030, and the rate of childhood obesity has already tripled in the past 30 years. Even obese children and adolescents can develop cardiovascular disease and diabetes, in addition to social stigmatization and poor self esteem.
The Food and Drug Administration has recognized the need to update the label’s information to help us make more sense of our current eating habits and dietary needs, so they're developing a new label which, after finalized, would start appearing on products within the next 2 years.
Will the new labeling format help? In addition to growing serving sizes, we also have newer information about what nutrients contribute to chronic disease risk. The formatting and emphasis on the new label attempts to highlight what is of top concern for consumers. For now, these are all only proposed changes, available for public comment through June 2. It is estimated that the average adult makes about 200 food decisions daily, so speak up to make your nutrition decisions easier!
Here is a breakdown to help make sense of the proposed Nutrition Facts label changes and how you can use them to make healthier choices.