The Magnificent Audacity of the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced courageous amendments to American nutrition label standards.

Food Labels

The changes have already raised shrill responses from processed food manufacturers, which is an early and reliable signal that the new rules will benefit public health.

The announcement is a thinly veiled acknowledgement by the FDA of a tectonic shift in public health protocol: dietary fat is not the killer we thought it was, and sugar has played a central role in our country’s epidemics of metabolic disorder, obesity, and chronic lifestyle disease.

Make no mistake about it: these changes are a win for consumers and the free market. Free markets thrive in the presence of full information that facilitates unhindered choice. Under the old standards, manufacturers could easily obfuscate the amount of sugar in a product by: 1) not disclosing added sugars (makes people think that the sugar is “naturally occurring” and thus proportionally healthy); 2) presenting nutritional information for a “serving size” that represents a fraction of the contents of the package (e.g., showing the amount of sugar in an 8 oz serving of juice while selling you a 24 oz bottle).

In addition to the sugar-specific changes, The Atlantic highlights the following as well: “’calories from fat’ will be removed because of the nature of fats vary. The labels will, however, still list ‘Total Fat,’ ‘Saturated Fat,’ and ‘Trans Fat.’” While there is still much public health guidance to be detailed regarding consumption of fats, this too is a brave admission that dietary fat and heart disease are tenuously linked. America’s era of fat phobia is easing as we become wiser and more scientific about the metabolic and physiological impacts of a long-chastised macronutrient.

Bravo, FDA. In this depressing election season, this is good news from Washington that everyone should be pleased to chew on.

More detail here:

The new Nutrition Facts label will include the following.

  • An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings,” two important elements in making informed food choices.
  • Requirements for serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat. …
  • Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. …
  • “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples include a pint of ice cream and a 3-ounce bag of chips. With dual-column labels available, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.
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