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Making Nutrition Facts label more helpful

David Gura Feb 27, 2014
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That familiar “Nutrition Facts” label hasn’t been updated in decades. Some changes have been in the works, however, and First Lady Michelle Obama will present a new nutrition label Thursday, at the White House. On the current label, there are calories at the top, then total fat, cholesterol, sodium, and so on.

“You can see in the panel a history of past arguments in nutrition policy,” says Parke Wilde, an agricultural economist at Tufts University, adding there have been fights over what to emphasize.

Something the administration wants to change is information on servings.

“Different people eat different ways,” Wilde explains. “I mean, people eat very radically different serving sizes from each other.”

Kelly Brownell, the dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, says the White House wants the new label to place more emphasis on calories, and to tell us how much sugar has been added to what we eat.

“Added sugar would be a really important thing to add, because there is so much in the diet,” he says. “And it is contributing so much to illness that it would be helpful for people to know that.”

So far, that is something the food industry has resisted. In a statement, its trade group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, didn’t address the debate over added sugar, but It did say it would support the administration’s plan to call more attention to calories.

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