FDA Wants Your Advice On Improving Food Labels : Shots - Health News With obesity running rampant, the FDA is looking for the public's help in making nutritional information more useful.

FDA Wants Your Advice On Improving Food Labels

The Food and Drug Administration wants YOU, to help them come up with better nutrional labels for food.

A prototype for a new food label: 'Nutrition Tips.' Marion Nestle/foodpolitics.com hide caption

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Marion Nestle/foodpolitics.com

In the wake of the controversies over with front-of-package food labels ("Smart Choices," and Rice Krispies' "IMMUNITY" claim, to name a few), and persistent concerns about Americans' eating habits, the agency is charting a course for change.

FDA is looking for public comment on three topics regarding the familiar Nutrition Facts label and has plans to start an experimental study on what sort of label would work best on the front of packaged foods..

You can read the jargon here and here. Or, just stick to the highlights below.

First off, the feds want a piece of your mind as they determine a few things about Nutrition Facts:

  • Should calorie counts be emphasized in Nutrition Facts panels? If so, how?
  • Should serving size regulations be altered, and how?
  • What nutrients should be added or removed from the Nutrition Facts box, if any?

FDA is asking for comments to be submitted on this Web site by January 19, 2010.

The study on front-of-package labels has seen a little more controversy lately. FDA will be launching research it hopes will determine the effective of labels on the front of packages, like the Smart Choices labels that were pulled off shelves in October.

They're looking at several variations on the following themes:

  • A "Nutrition Tips" box (pictured) that would show per-serving amounts of calories, total fat, sugar, sodium, all pictured with an easy-to-understand colored box telling you whether the amount of the ingredient is considered high, medium or low.
  • A box that would follow the system adopted in the U.K. "Traffic light labeling". It's similar to the one mentioned above but the red, yellow and green dots should be similar to signs drivers already follow on the road.
  • A "Calorie Count" box on the front of the package stating clearly how many calories are in each serving of the food and how many servings are in the whole package. Alternatively, you might see the number of calories in one serving and the calories in the whole package.
  • A "Nutrition Rating" system using numbers or stars to "rate" the overall nutrition of the product and the overall calories it contains. We suppose it could look something like this one.
  • A "Healthy Check" system, similar to the nixed "Smart Choices" program that would put a green check on "healthy" foods (how that would be determined is unclear) next to a box with calorie information per serving and number of servings.