The “New” Nutritional Facts Label

February 28, 2014

On the heels of the CDC's report that childhood obesity has declined, and amidst the success of Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative, here is what the FDA wants to change about the Nutritional Facts Label.

Yesterday the White House and FDA finally revealed what many in the food world already knew was coming: a proposed simplified Nutritional Facts panel that increased the type size for calories, broke out a line for added sugars, eliminated the calories from fat measure and made Potassium and Vitamin D a required listing. Other proposed changes include decreasing the RDA for sodium and increases for fiber and calcium.

The timing of this announcement could not have been better planned. Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control released a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reporting that childhood obesity (ages 2 to 5 year olds) had actually declined 5.5 points – an almost 40% decline. While the study did not pinpoint the reasons for the decline, they did offer some possibilities. What the CDC report did not point out was that this finding may well offer parents motivation, a ray of hope if you will, that proves that obesity (both for children and adults) can be managed and the trend reversed. 

The wind is at First Lady Michelle Obama’s back. The CDC report, the proposed Nutritional Facts Panel, the measured success of the Let’s Move initiative together with the fact that she has just until January 20, 2017 to accomplish her stated objective to "solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight." 

Over the next few weeks and months we expect to see The First Lady do what she does best – engage and empower people - in person and in the media, especially on television, as the proposed changes will certainly draw critics and may confuse consumers.

The two areas we at The Lempert Report will be watching carefully will be the “added sugars” proposal (which we believe will be highly criticized, but be approved and appear on the label) and that the serving sizes will be changed to reflect the amount consumed, typically that of the entire container.

As witnessed by then Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to limit sizes of carbonated beverages, the soda industry in particular, faced with declining consumption and fueled by multiple studies questioning both the nutritional value and impact of drinking both diet and regular sodas can be a “fighting machine.” While few consumers would argue that having a more realistic serving size would help them make better decisions on what – and how much – to consume; we expect this to be “the” much debated issue and hope that it does not derail or delay these much needed changes to the Nutritional Facts Panel.