By Jonathan Springston, Associate Managing Editor, AHC Media

The FDA on Friday announced a major overhaul of the nutrition label information placed on packaged foods in what one news outlet called “the most radical overhaul of nutrition policy in decades.”

Among the many updates, three of perhaps the most important alterations are a better delineation between “servings” and “calories,” a more explicit alert about how much sugar is in a product, and the removal of the “calories from fat” descriptor.

The nutrition facts label has not been updated in more than 20 years. More than three-quarters of Americans say these labels play in important role in their food decisions. The FDA says it will launch an outreach and education campaign to help food manufacturers bring their products into compliance by July 26, 2018. Manufacturers who sell less than $10 million in food products annually have an additional year to achieve compliance.

“I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved nutrition facts label that will be on food products nationwide,” First Lady Michelle Obama said during the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit. “This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.”

“The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource so consumers can make more informed food choices, one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, said.

The removal of the “calories from fat” descriptor is an interesting decision, as attitudes about fat in food evolve rapidly. In the upcoming June 15 issue of Internal Medicine Alert, Joseph Scherger, MD, MPH, writes about a recent review of randomized, controlled trials showing that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid does not result in a reduction in atherosclerosis, cardiovascular morbidity, or death.

In his commentary, Dr. Scherger boldly proclaims, “It has become apparent that we have been giving wrong dietary advice to patients for many decades. The low fat and nonfat food industry was a mistake because it resulted in higher carbohydrate intake and coincided with the epidemic of overweight individuals, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Science has a way of breaking paradigms and keeping us humble. Greater understanding of the biochemistry of nutrition and the human body gives us an opportunity to provide better nutrition recommendations and hopefully improved food science.”