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Nutrition Labels Are Getting a Major Upgrade Thanks to Michelle Obama

They'll disclose added sugars and use more reasonable serving sizes

Panu Tangchalermkul/Flickr

Chalk up a big win for FLOTUS: Nutrition labels on food packages will soon display information on added sugars, thanks in no small part to Michelle Obama's nutrition crusades.

The FDA officially announced the upcoming changes today, explaining that the new labels will disclose how much added sugar a food contains, both in grams and as a percentage of the recommended daily intake. "Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar," the government agency writes.

The move has been anticipated for some time, despite the best efforts of the sugar industry which has fiercely lobbied against the changes. As Politico explains, "The impact of the rule is difficult to overstate — labels on products from candy bars and sodas to crackers and cereal, at every point of sale across America, must be overhauled at an estimated cost of $2 billion." Of course, such sweeping changes will take time to implement: The new labels won't go into effect until 2018.

The FDA is clearly hopeful that obesity-stricken Americans might consider changing their dietary habits when they're faced with the stark reality that a particular candy bar or ice cream novelty has more sugar than the agency recommends they should consume in an entire today. But it's also hoping the new labels will spur food manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in existing products, and introduce new products that are healthier.

While info on added sugars is the most dramatic change to nutrition labels, several other aspects will be updated as well: Notably, serving sizes will be updated to reflect "amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating." That means no more single-serving bags of chips that actually contain two "servings," or 12-ounce bottles of soda where the serving size is listed as eight ounces. Additionally, the standard serving for ice cream will be two-thirds of a cup instead of a half-cup, because literally no one eats only a half-cup of ice cream. Calories will also be listed in a considerably larger font size.

Look for the new nutrition labels to go into effect by July 26, 2018. Smaller food manufacturers (those with less than $10 million in annual sales) will get a little more time, however, with the FDA granting them an extra year to get their labels in compliance.

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