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FDA Labels to Get First Makeover in Decades

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday unveiled several changes to nutrition labels on packaged foods and beverages, placing a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and serving sizes. It would be the first major overhaul since nutritional facts were first stamped on food products 20 years ago. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Those familiar food labels found on more than 700,000 products are in for a makeover.

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing significant changes to the look and the information on the labels. The goal is to update them to better reflect new information on nutrition that's emerged over the last two decades.

"As consumers and as parents we have a right to understand what's in the food we're feeding our families because that's really the only way that we can make informed choices by having clear accurate information,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

The new labels give increased prominence to calorie counts and serving sizes. There's also a new line of information for "Added Sugars,” something which health experts say is a major contributor to obesity.

The goals are clear.

"Reduce the risk of chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke,” said Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

The percentage daily value for things like sodium, calcium and fiber will also change to get in line with the most recent research.

The most striking changes might just be the FDA's plan to make serving sizes reflect actual consumption. For instance, the small ice cream container show in the video above is listed as holding 3 ½ servings. That would change.

"This way people will know how many calories or nutrients they're consuming if in fact they eat or drink the entire amount at one time,” said Dr. Hamburg.

But will this make any concrete difference? The FDA says highlighting this information could nudge food providers to change to healthier ingredients. The agency also says more than half of all Americans use these labels to guide food choices.

Many city residents who spoke with NY1 about the proposed changes say they do read nutrition labels to know exactly what and how much they are eating.

"Every time I shop I look at food labels, unless it's something I'm very familiar with. I think they can only put so much on a label, so let's make it real," said one New Yorker.

"Sometimes it is deceiving when you get one product, and you're like is that one serving, or is it more than one?" said another New Yorker.

There will now be a 90-day public comment period, then the FDA will make a final decision on the new rules.

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