Michelle Obama Presents New FDA Food Label Rules

By:  Warren Mass
02/28/2014
       
Michelle Obama Presents New FDA Food Label Rules

Speaking from the East Room of the White House on February 27, first lady Michelle Obama announced upcoming changes to the FDA’s Nutrition Facts label — the ubiquitous chart found on about 700,000 food and beverage products sold in the United States.

The event was kicked off by introductory remarks from Kathleen Sebellius, secretary of Health and Human Services, who introduced the next speaker, Margaret Hamburg, the Food & Drug Administration commissioner. A release issued by the White House’s Office of the First Lady said: “The updates announced today support the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative in its ongoing efforts to provide parents and families with access to information that helps them make healthier choices.”

Thursday marked the fourth anniversary of Let’s Move!, the initiative announced by Mrs. Obama on February 9, 2010 with the stated goal of “solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.”

A description of the proposed changes to the FDA’s Nutrition Facts label was provided in the Office of the First Lady release: 

• Require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product. Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans determination that calorie intake from added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced.  The FDA proposes to include “added sugars” on the label to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. 

• Update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put into place in 1994. By law, serving sizes must be based on the portion consumers actually eat, rather than the amount they “should” be eating.

• Present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting or in multiple sittings.

• Refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and Percent Daily Value, which are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease. 

The suggestion to update the “serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat” because “how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put into place in 1994” defies both logic and human behavior. Anyone who is serious about losing weight follows not the “serving size” mandated by the FDA on packages, but the portions recommend by whatever diet they are following, whether it comes from their doctor, a nutrition magazine, or a weight loss group, such as Weight Watchers. These guidelines are not formulated to reflect how much people currently eat, because if people are overweight it indicates that the amount they currently eat is too much!

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