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FAQ: New Nutrition Facts Label

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Why did the FDA make the changes?

Today’s labels reflect eating habits and nutritional information from the 1970s and '80s, says Shelley Wishnick of the Friedman Diabetes Institute at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. “It’s time to be more realistic and reflect the portion sizes of what Americans are eating today.”

Should people adjust their portion size because of the new labels?

“Even though the portion sizes are being adjusted to reflect American diets, it doesn’t mean we should be eating larger portion sizes,” Wishnick says. She says it’s important to also eat foods that don’t have labels -- such as fruit and vegetables -- as part of a balanced diet.

How would the new labels help shoppers?

The label changes are a start, but the changes have to go hand-in-hand with explanations about what they mean and why the information is helpful, Diekman says.

"What we have to make sure of is that education accompanies this new label, so people understand it's not about good, bad, avoid, consume," she says. "It's about balance."

When would the new labels go into effect?

After the 90-day comment period, the FDA will issue a final ruling. They hope to complete that process within a year. Manufacturers will have 2 years to get the new labels on packages.

What percent of shoppers read nutrition labels?

About 54% of shoppers check out the nutrition label when buying a product for the first time, according to a 2008 FDA survey of 2,500 people.

Diekman reports receiving honoraria from advisory-board-work for the California Walnut Board, National Dairy Council, Aspartame Advisory Panel, and Facts Up Front.

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