Nutrition Nanny: Labels Facing Major Overhaul

Today, the Food and Drug Administration announced a proposal that would significantly alter nutritional labels found on packaged foods.

Since the debut of nutritional facts in 1992, the only significant change came in 2003 when the FDA required companies to display trans-fat content. Being only the second major change to nutritional labeling in more than twenty years, the new guidelines will have a large impact on America's food industry.

The new proposals have an expected cost of $2 billion and would include; a larger and more visible calorie count, larger serving sizes, and to list added sugars.

Found on nearly 700,000 products, the nutrition facts panel “is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate for the food industry,” according to the Washington Post. This means that valuable information industry would like to display on its packaging is now going to have to take a backseat to information that already exists, but now must be larger. For many products, packaging is an integral part of the brand; this new requirement would be more than a nuisance; it will cost billions while threatening the brand integrity of many food products. Is it difficult to imagine a day where government disclaimers take up all space on food packaging? If a company finds itself unable to offer information that makes a meaningful distinction between its product and a competitor, it is not hard to see what kind of impact that would have in competition in food markets.

Perhaps most disturbingly, it seems the new guidelines are premised on the notion that a nationwide obesity problem is the product of Americans not being able to read. The new labels would have caloric intake listed in larger font, and increase serving sizes; ostensibly, listing the caloric value of an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's, rather than just the serving - which is a quarter of a pint - is going to save the nation from itself. Despite the fact that this information is already readily available; in fact, serving size is the FIRST THING LISTED directly under the words 'Nutrition Label' on today's packaging.

As part of her ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FDA Commissoner Margaret A. Hamburg today in the White House to announce the new guidelines.

According to the First Lady, “this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”

FLOTUS is right, this is a big deal. But not for the reasons she believes it to be.

TAGS: Nanny State, issues

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