Obesity experts welcomed the proposed update.
"Today is a big win for consumers," said Dr. Glenna McCollum, president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a registered dietitian. "The changes announced today are long overdue. There has been so much new research about consumers' use of food labels, chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and how specific nutrients affect our health."
"Meanwhile, the Nutrition Facts panel is more than 20 years old and does not reflect the current food environment or recent scientific research. Consumers want information they can use to make healthful choices," she added.
Chris Ochner, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said the expected emphasis on calories and realistic serving sizes are sorely needed changes.
"Bar none, the number of calories is the most important thing an individual can pay attention to when it comes to their diet," he said.
Americans have become increasingly health conscious, and listing realistic serving sizes will help them practice good nutrition, Ochner added. Currently, manufacturers can list nutrition facts for serving sizes much smaller than people typically consume, he said.
"For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 2.5 servings even though individuals typically consume them in one sitting. Until now, they would only be provided with nutrition information for less than half of what they typically consumed," Ochner explained.
The addition of "added sugar" to food labels should help people realize just how much sugar they consume, he said. The recommended daily allowance of sugar for women is 6 teaspoons, he said, noting a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8 teaspoons of added sugar.
The FDA will accept public comment on the proposed revisions for 90 days. It is not known when the new labeling law would take effect, if approved.