Today, Michelle Obama will unveil the first changes to the country's nutrition labels in over 20 years, Politico reported. (The Nutrition Facts label hasn't changed significantly since 1994—imagine if computers, cell phones, or the grain aisle of the grocery store were so static!)
This is good: Michelle Obama’s labeling crusade https://t.co/vO1UDa3UBE— Mark Bittman (@bittman) May 20, 2016
New food label! Congratulations Let’s Move! & FDA https://t.co/0nsDxQ24s9— Marion Nestle (@marionnestle) May 20, 2016
"The impact of the rule is difficult to overstate," writes Helena Bottemiller Evich of Politico. In two years, billions of package labels will be overhauled to include the amount of added sugar and a suggestion for an added sugar limit. (Smaller companies—those with less than $10 million in annual sales—will have three years to comply.)
The FDA's decision is the end results of a "yearslong push by the Obama administration into stiff opposition from food and beverage companies, which say there is no difference between naturally present sugars and added sugars," according to the Wall Street Journal. The recommended sugar maximum will join the suggested limits for fats, sodium, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.
While the increased information on sugar levels (specifically: "Added Sugars" stated in grams and as a percent of daily value directly beneath "Total Sugar" count) might be the most controversial change, it's not the only one. Here's what else you can expect from the updated labels:
While many food policy advocates are pleased with the changes—"This is an enormous accomplishment," Marion Nestle told Politico—others, like Dr. Sean Lucan, worry that the labels place too much emphasis on calories and fat: "A focus on calories," Lucan wrote in a Forbes op-ed, "almost by definition becomes a focus on fat; high-fat, higher-calories foods become the unhealthy and undesirable choice; low-fat, lower-calorie foods become healthy and desirable. But this isn’t necessarily true."
Regardless of the value of the updates, the new labels might take a bit of getting used to—though, designphiles, don't be concerned: The FDA has declared that "the 'iconic' look of the label remains."
Excited by the label changes? Skeptical? Share your thoughts in the comments below!