Proposed FDA Regs Would Increase 'Serving Sizes' to Reflect Actual Consumption

February 27, 2014 - 5:54 PM

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced proposed food labeling regulations that would eliminate some "serving sizes" and expand some others in an effort to better reflect actual consumption by Americans today.

"People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date," the FDA said in its announcement.

"Therefore, FDA is updating the reference values used by manufacturers to set serving sizes to make them more realistic, reflecting what people really eat and drink."

Some items, like "a 20-ounce can of soda or a 15-ounce can of soup" would list only one serving "because people typically eat or drink them in one sitting."

However, a 24-ounce can of soda or a 19 ounce can of soup would require two columns of nutritional information: one for the entire container and one for "per serving."

The current serving sizes are based on Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys conducted in 1977-1978 and 1987-1988.

But, as First Lady Michelle Obama explains on her "Let's Move" website, "portion sizes have exploded" and "today, kids think nothing of drinking 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time."

Thirty years ago, kids ate just one snack a day, whereas now they are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day. And one in five school-age children has up to six snacks a day.

Portion sizes have also exploded- they are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past. Beverage portions have grown as well- in the mid-1970s, the average sugar-sweetened beverage was 13.6 ounces compared to today, kids think nothing of drinking 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time.

In total, we are now eating 31 percent more calories than we were forty years ago-including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners. The average American now eats fifteen more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at the White House today to announce proposed revisions to the Nutrition Facts label.

Mrs. Obama touted "the label of the future":

You’ll also learn more about where the sugar in the food comes from -- like whether the sugar in your yogurt was added during processing or whether it comes from ingredients like fruits.  This is what you will get from the label of the future.