U.S. FDA asks for clearer food and menu labels

March 17, 2004 in Nutrition Topics in the News

U.S. FDA asks for clearer food and menu labels

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last week it would ask food manufacturers and some restaurants to label food more clearly so that Americans can easily figure out how many calories they are getting in a serving. The FDA also said it would consider stricter labelling requirements for packaged food and for some restaurant labels.

The steps were outlined at a news conference and in a new agency report offering recommendations for stricter, clearer food-label regulations in future.

For now the FDA will ask food manufacturers to make it clear, for instance, that a small packet of chips now marked as three servings of 100 calories each is actually a single serving of 300 calories. It will also consider moves that would make the hard-to-read print on labels larger and easier to read.

The report by FDA's Obesity Working Group includes recommendations to strengthen food labelling, to educate consumers about maintaining a healthy diet and weight and to encourage restaurants to provide nutrition information, including calories.

The report also recommends increasing enforcement to ensure food labels accurately portray serving size, revising and reissuing guidance on developing anti-obesity drugs and strengthening coordinated scientific research to reduce obesity and to develop foods that are healthier and lower in calories.

Food labels now lay out how many calories there are per serving, how many servings are in the package, how much fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, sugar, fibre and protein it contains and details of some key vitamins. The moves come just days after government statistics showed that obesity and a lack of exercise are quickly overtaking smoking as the leading cause of death in the United States.

Companies say they are already taking steps to meet increased public concern about more healthful eating. Kraft, the largest North American food company, says it will limit the size of some single-portion packages, such as Oreo cookies.

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