US & Canada

Michelle Obama promotes plan for food label overhaul

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe First Lady introduces new nutrition labels on US food packages.

First Lady Michelle Obama has unveiled plans for the most sweeping overhaul of nutrition labels on US food packages in more than two decades.

Calorie counts will appear in larger, bolder type, and consumers will know for the first time whether foods have added sugars.

Under the Obama administration's plan, labels will also feature more realistic descriptions of a serving.

It is not clear whether the food industry will support the proposals.

'Families deserve better'

"You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf and be able to tell whether it's good for your family," said Mrs Obama at the White House event on Thursday.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBarack Obama and Joe Biden go for a run together to promote a health campaign

She added: "I know there will be many opinions on what this label should look like, but I think that we all can agree that families deserve more and better information about the food they eat."

Under the plans, a 20oz (0.5kg) container of soda will count as one serving, rather than 2.5 servings, as it is currently.

The serving size listed on ice cream cartons, currently half a cup, will increase to one cup.

The changes would reflect advances in health experts' understanding of sugars and fats.

The amount of total fat, saturated fat and trans fat in a product would still be listed on the updated labelling. But it would no longer have to list calories from fat since the type of fat consumed is now viewed as more important than the amount.

The food label revisions will also include mandatory potassium and vitamin D amounts.

'Thoughtful review'

Mrs Obama made the announcement as part of her Let's Move initiative to combat child obesity, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Michelle Obama's White House garden grows everything from cantaloupe melons to pumpkins

The proposals are open for a 90-day comment period and would be expected to take at least two years to implement, if approved.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation's largest food companies, described it as a "thoughtful review", though it did not say whether it would back the plan.

It would amount to the biggest overhaul of nutritional labels since the US government made such information mandatory on food packaging in the early 1990s.

"For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices," said Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

"To remain relevant, the FDA's newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans."

New figures this week indicated an unprecedented 43% drop in obesity among two-to-five years olds in the US over the past decade.

But 35.7% of all Americans remain obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites