The packaged food industry today issued a tame public response to the federal government's proposal to overhaul nutritional labeling. But the changes could prove costly for marketers, potentially leading to reformulations and new packaging formats, industry experts and lawyers say.
The proposal, outlined today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, represents the biggest change to the Nutrition Facts label since it was created in 1993. The uniform black-and-white label, which outlines calories and nutritional content, is affixed to nearly every food item sold at stores and is read by nearly two-thirds of all shoppers, according to the Food Marketing Institute.
The FDA's proposal would mandate several key changes, including putting calorie contents in larger, bolder type. Marketers would have to list "added sugars," rather than today's "sugars" listing, which includes added and naturally occurring sugar. Brands would also update serving sizes to "reflect the amounts people currently eat," according to the FDA. For instance, today the serving size for ice cream amounts to about a half a cup, but under the proposal it could be changed to a full cup. So the listed calories per-serving might jump to 400 calories from 200 calories, according to an example given by the FDA.
Also, some packages that are typically eaten in one sitting but split into multiple servings on the label would have to include information for a "single serving" of the entire package, such as 20-ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup. Other changes include listing Vitamin D and potassium contents, which are not on today's labels.
Meanwhile, the FDA plans to revise the daily values of several nutrients, including sodium, which would fall from 2,400 mg to 2,300 mg. So the labeled percent daily value of sodium contained in the serving size of a soup brand, for instance, could display as a higher amount. The agency stopped short of recommending a daily value for added sugars, which health advocates have urged.