The Obama administration is proposing the first significant overhaul of nutrition labels in 20 years. First Lady Michelle Obama is to reveal the new layout for the labels at the White House today.
The new design is intended to make it easier for consumers to judge the healthiness of their food choices. Changes include calorie counts appearing in larger font and linked to realistic serving sizes, additional information like "added sugars" distinguishing from those naturally in food, and a list of nutritional values for vitamin D and potassium.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association said it looks forward to helping with the proposed changes, and it will be at least two years before they have to comply with the new labels for their packages.
The labels do hit on something that has tripped up many: Not allowing the serving size to be listed as half a cup to get down to, say, the desired calorie limit of 100. Currently, the average person eats a whole cup at a time and so ingests 200 calories. The ramifications for this also seem to extend to baked goods like muffins and cinnamon buns, which tend to list serving information for half of the unit. So this is a major step forward for consumers who don’t read the fine print and automatically think that the serving size would be the whole thing.
Still, the labels don’t do enough in some people’s view. Consumer groups have been asking for colorful type to draw attention to added sugars or saturated fat. They also wanted the labels to show what percentage of grains in the food are healthful whole grains. The whole grain information would be fairly easy to add, but a color-coding system, on the other hand, would make the labels rather complicated and costly to print. Ultimately, guidelines like these have to hit the right balance between appealing to consumer interests and not causing too much pain to manufacturers.