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Nutrition Labels Get Major Makeover

Revamped nutrition labels were unveiled by the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and first lady Michelle Obama, marking the first time the labels have been significantly updated since their introduction in 1994.

The changes are intended to make nutrition labels easier to read, to help consumers make more informed choices and to reflect the science of nutrition, which has evolved in the more than two decades since the familiar labels began appearing on food packaging.

"You'll no longer need a microscope to figure out whether the food is actually good for your kids," the first lady said on May 20, according to The Associated Press.

Reflecting new information and changed attitudes due to new research, fat content is deemphasized, while calories and sugar content will now be more prominent, with larger fonts on the new labels, according to the FDA. Calories will be the most prominent information on the label, presented in the largest and boldest font.

The updated labels will also emphasize serving size and servings per container, so consumers know exactly how many calories are in each serving and in each package.

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Consumers won't see all the changes overnight -- most food manufacturers will have a grace period and won't have to fully comply until 2018, according to The Atlantic.

Not everyone's happy with the changes. Among the loudest critics is the Sugar Association, which represents the interests of the sugar industry. The association complained that the new "added sugars" section of the label -- which will differentiate between natural sugars in a product, and additional sugar added during the preparation process -- was an arbitrary change prompted by "science of low evidentiary value."

“The extraordinary contradictions and irregularities, as well as the lack of scientific justification in this rulemaking process are unprecedented for the FDA,” the Sugar Association wrote in a statement. “We are concerned that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent that is not grounded in science, and could actually deter us from our shared goal of a healthier America.”

But the labels as they are don't give consumers an accurate picture of how much sugar is in a particular product, said Michael Jacobson, president of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"Besides helping consumers make more informed choices, the new labels should also spur food manufacturers to add less sugar to their products," Jacobson told AP.

Sources: FDA, The Atlantic, AP / Photo credit: FDA, Wikimedia Commons

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