WASHINGTON – Labels on foods will require significantly more information, including details about how much sugar has been added and calorie counts, as part of new rules finalized Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
An increase in type size on product labels will draw attention to calorie counts, as will some increases in the sizes of typical servings that better reflect how much of a product people normally eat at one sitting.
Certain vitamins and types of fat content must be listed on labels as well.
First Lady Michele Obama, who has made nutrition among children a focus of her time in the White House, praised the new labeling requirements.
“The serving sizes are more realistic,” she said in a speech Friday to the Partnership for a Healthier America. “And, most important of all, this label will tell you how much sugar in your snack was added during processing and how much of it comes from ingredients like fruit.”
FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said the new label will help inform consumer decisions that could reduce heart disease and obesity.
Minnesota-based General Mills, one of the country’s largest packaged food makers, said Friday’s announcement “represents the biggest change in the nutrition label in 20 years, and it will take some time to fully assess.”
The added-sugars label attracted much of the attention in the new labeling regimen. It drew opposition from some in the food industry, which said total sugar content should not be broken down because it did not bear on public health. But the FDA remained steadfast in leaving the designation in place because of concerns about nutrition and obesity.
“ ‘Added sugars,’ in grams and as percent [of] Daily Value, will be included on the label,” the FDA said. “Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar, and this is consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
General Mills said it was committed “to providing clear nutritional information on our products and to reducing overall sugar across our portfolio.”
“General Mills has steadily reduced sugar in the food we make in the U.S. for more than 10 years and has made significant strides, especially in yogurt and cereal,” the company said in a prepared statement. “Today, all General Mills Big G kid cereals are at 10 grams of sugar or less per serving — and many are already at single-digits. And we’ve reduced sugar by nearly 25 percent on our kid yogurts including Go-Gurt, Trix and Yoplait Kids, and in Yoplait® Original, where sugar has gone from 26 grams to 18 grams.”
At the Union of Concerned Scientists, the battle to break out added sugars on food labels was a two-year ordeal. Roughly 70 percent of food industry comments to the FDA criticized the added sugars labeling proposal, Pallavi Phartiyal, a senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Star Tribune.
“I am elated to say the least,” Phartiyal said. “We’ve come a long way in the science of overconsumption of sugar. We knew it caused tooth decay. Now there’s evidence that it can contribute to diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”
As they consume more sugar, Americans are also eating more per serving than they were the last time the food labels changed in 1993.
To reflect increased eating and drinking habits new, larger serving sizes will be reflected. For instance, an official serving size for ice cream will now be two-thirds of a cup instead of half a cup.
For beverages, the serving size for purposes of calories consumed will rise to 12 ounces from eight.