First lady unveils new FDA food label, looks back on healthy kids initiative

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 20, 2016 - Michelle Obama formally unveiled the government's updated Nutrition Facts Label for packaged foods today while at the same time touting the strides the Obama administration has made toward a healthier America.

The update, the first in more than 20 years, will require labels to state clearly the amount of sugar added to products during processing as well as other information, such as calories and servings per container. The revamped format also replaces out-of-date service sizes to better reflect the amount consumers actually eat.

“You will no longer need a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food you are buying is actually good for our kids,” Mrs. Obama said about the label at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit in Washington. “I hope you all are proud, because this was not easy to do.”

Lets Talk Food

In her speech the first lady addressed those who doubted how effective her “Let's Move” Initiative would be when it was announced six years ago, as well as the need for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

“Contrary to what the naysayers predicted, millions of kids are truly embracing this change,” she said. “After all that hand-wringing … about how kids are picky eaters, schools wouldn't be able to prepare more nutritious meals that students would actually enjoy, and food manufacturers wouldn't make healthy versions of their products that young consumers would prefer… Remember all that? I do!”

“After all that, it turns out that kids are even more excited about this stuff than we are. And after six years, it's becoming their new normal,” Mrs. Obama said.

“It's no accident that fast-food places are now serving apples and skim milk in their kids meals. Or that food and beverage companies… have cut 6.4 trillion calories from their products and are racing to stock grocery shelves with healthier options,” she added.

“If six years ago, someone had told you that Fenway Park would have a 5,000 square foot farm on their rooftop to provide fresh produce for (Boston Red Sox) fans, that 50 million Americans would visit a government website called “My Plate” to learn about healthy eating, that sales of kale would jump 50 percent in just four years, or that the first unanimously chosen NBA MVP Steph Curry would choose fruits, vegetables and water as his primary product endorsements… If someone had told you that six years ago, you all would have thought they were out of their minds.”

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Mrs. Obama was obviously excited about the new Nutrition Facts Label, which will be featured prominently on more than 80,000 food products in the U.S. Large companies have two years to be incompliance with the new rule, while companies with less than $10 million in annual sales will have an extra year to comply.

The major changes to the Nutrition Facts label include:

  • A more prominent display of “calories,” “servings,” and “servings per container.”
  • Requirements for declaring the amount of “Added Sugars” in a food product. This is consistent with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine's determination that calorie intake from added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced.
  • Updated serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put into place in 1993.  By law, serving sizes must be based on the portion consumers actually eat.
  • “Dual column” labels to highlight both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products.
  • An abbreviated footnote better explaining percent Daily Value.
  • An updated list of nutrients required to be declared based off of public health significance. Vitamin D and potassium - nutrients Americans often do not get enough of - will be required. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C are no longer required but can be included on a voluntary basis.

Mrs. Obama also promised to keep promoting programs for healthier children once her husband leaves office early next year.

“While next year, I will no longer be first lady, I just want you to know that I will always be here as a partner in this effort. I plan to work on it long after I leave the White House.”

“This is not a trendy issue of the month, or even the issue of the year, this is a generational problem. It took us decades to get here and it's going to take us years to climb our way back.”

#30

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