Public weighs in on FDA's revised nutritional labels

WASHINGTON: The Food and Drug Administration's proposed changes to the nutritional labeling system for packaged foods are up for public debate after first lady Michelle Obama revealed them in the East Wing of the White House on Thursday.

WASHINGTON: The Food and Drug Administration's proposed changes to the nutritional labeling system for packaged foods are up for public debate after first lady Michelle Obama revealed them in the East Wing of the White House on Thursday.

The prospective modifications are part of an effort to help consumers make better choices about what they eat, according to the FDA. They would emphasize more visible calorie counts and new serving sizes. The federal agency has also recommended mandatory information about sugar added during the manufacturing process.

A 90-day public-comment period began Monday on Regulations.gov, said FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman.

The federal agency cannot provide a timeline for when it would finalize the proposed changes because that depends on the substance of each comment, the number received, and the time taken to review each one.

Eisenman explained that once the final ruling is published, there will "definitely be an important announcement," but she could not speculate about the size of a prospective media push by the FDA.

"We won't know until we see the comments how much the final format will change from the proposed rule," said Eisenman. "A lot depends on the content and how much we need to educate the public."

The FDA does not plan to use an outside PR agency, and it did not employ one for Thursday's announcement, she added.

After the first lady revealed the proposed nutritional labeling system on Thursday at an open press event, the FDA used a news release complete with a fact sheet, updates on serving sizes, and "behind-the-scenes" changes along with infographics, said Eisenman.

In terms of digital, the FDA posted to Facebook, tweeted, and updated FDA.gov. It also invited reporters at the White House to participate in a call Thursday afternoon and tailored clips for TV and radio broadcast.

The FDA also made all materials available in Spanish, said Eisenman, who added that "we'd like to ensure we're reaching all audiences."

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