First Lady Michelle Obama plans to announce a series of proposed changes to food labels Thursday, aiming to make healthy choices easier for consumers in a country where obesity is rampant.
The revisions would relate to the required fine print to include more realistic descriptions of what amounts to a serving, mandatory potassium and vitamin D amounts, and a new line to detail "added sugars" -- not just total sugars. The calorie count would also be more prominent. But not fat content, since health experts understand more today than they did 20 years ago about good and bad fats, administration officials said.
Other changes would attempt to eliminate confusion about how much a container holds, so if a soda had 20 ounces (0.6 liters), the calorie count on the label would reflect a 20 ounce soda, not a fraction according to each of the 2.5 servings inside. The proposals are open for a 90-day comment period and would likely take at least two years to implement, administration officials told reporters ahead of the White House event, set for 1600 GMT.
"Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it's good for your family," said a statement from the First Lady released ahead of the announcement.
"So this is a big deal, and it's going to make a big difference for families all across this country." For Obama, advocating healthy eating and exercise, particularly among young people, has been a centerpiece of her efforts since her husband was elected president in 2008. More than one third (35.7 percent) of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a trend that has remained steady among adults in recent years.
But new CDC data released earlier this week showed, for the first time, a steep 43 percent drop in obesity among the very young, aged two to five, signaling potential progress against the epidemic.
Some pushback over the labels is expected from the food industry, particularly regarding salt.
Daily value of sodium would be slightly reduced from 2,400 to 2,300 milligrams per day. However, people at risk for high blood pressure should limit their intake to 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily, but that would not be declared on the label. Some 700,000 grocery store food products are emblazoned with the nutrition facts label, which has only undergone one major update in two decades.
"For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices," said Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
"To remain relevant, the FDA's newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans."