Nutrition labels getting a makeover

TERRE HUATE, Ind. (WTHI) – For the first time in more than two decades, the White House and the Food and Drug Administration are unveiling major changes to the nutrition facts label found on food packages.

The new label announced today by First Lady Michelle Obama is part of an overhaul to combat childhood obesity. Obama administration officials say the update is necessary to keep pace with the science of nutrition and to reduce confusion about what qualifies as healthy food.

“I look at them (nutrition labels) because I’ve had surgery in the past and it’s important that I eat more fruit and vegetables, and a lot of protein,” said Barb Market, of Terre Haute.

For Market checking nutrition labels is part of her shopping routine, but deciphering what’s in the food she buys isn’t always an easy task.

“I think the common ordinary person has a hard time understanding it, and they’ll finally pick up something and say whatever. It’s extremely difficult,” she said.

The current label is not only confusing but often misleading.

“Think of cereals, it might say 8 serving of whole grain and people might be thinking well that’s at least 8 grams, but then when you flip it around it’s not even 2 grams of fiber,” said Registered Dietitian Sarah James, with Nutrition to Grow, LLC.

Now the outdated labels are getting a facelift to reflect reality.

The new label will feature changes like a bolder calorie count. When it comes to healthy living research shows counting calories is more important than fat consumption.

“As far as fat goes there are good fats and there are bad fats, so not all fat is created equal, whereas with calories it’s calorie in, calorie out for weight loss,” said James.

The label will also display a new category listing added sugars. Natural sugar and added sugar are chemically identical and the body often doesn’t differentiate between the two.

“Right now there are just carbohydrates and sugar grams so you don’t really know where those sugar grams are coming from are they coming from natural sugars? Are they just added sugars? It is going to be nice to see the breakdown,” James said.

One of the biggest changes for shoppers will be the updates to serving sizes. This change will no longer require a lot of math just to figure out how many calories you are consuming.

For example the serving size for ice cream now half a cup would double.

“If you look at a 20 oz soda it’s going to break that down into how many servings. What person puts a $1.50 into a machine and only drinks half of it as their serving,” James explained.

As to whether or not these changes will affect choices James says only time will tell.

“I have mixed feelings as to whether or not it’s really going to help. I hope it does. I still encourage people to read your food labels,” she said.

“I think it will be beneficial,” said Market.

The relabeling could cost the industry $2 billion to implement but could result in $30 billion in benefits.

The new label could take a year or more before appearing on store shelves.

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