FDA helps women and families meet their nutritional needs

Woman shopping

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990 gave FDA the authority, for the first time, to require nutrition labeling on foods. The Nutrition Facts label provides consumers with easy-to-understand, per-serving information on calories, fat, protein, sodium, cholesterol, dietary fiber, and vitamins. To help people choose heart-healthy foods, in 2003, the FDA required food labels to include trans fat content. One year later, in 2004, the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act also required the labeling of any food that contains peanuts, soybeans, cow's milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study found that the percentage of working-age adults using the Nutrition Facts Panel when food shopping increased to 42% in 2010, from 34% in 2007.1 Among older adults, the percentage that used the Nutrition Facts Panel increased from 51% to 57% over the same time period.2

Today, the FDA is looking at revising the food label again to help consumers make the healthiest choices. The FDA is also considering banning partially hydrogenated oil in all food products.3Also, because Americans get more than one-third of their calories outside of the home4, the 2010 Affordable Care Act requires chain restaurants to post the number of calories in each standard menu item and for vending machine companies to post calorie information with vending machines.5 The Affordable Care Act authorizes the FDA to establish standards for this information.

In addition to the Nutrition Facts label, the FDA also regulates all food coloring and additives. In 1998, the FDA required grain products to include folic acid (a B vitamin) to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine in the developing fetus.6 Studies show that the number of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, has dropped by 25% since then.7 Today, the FDA works with the USDA, the CDC, and NIH to produce FoodSafety.gov to help all consumers make healthy and safe food choices.

Sources

  1. USDA, Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults, 2005 - 2010
  2. USDA, Changes in Eating Patterns and Diet Quality Among Working-Age Adults, 2005 - 2010
  3. Federal Register, Tentative Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils; Request for Comments and for Scientific Data and Information
  4. USDA, Americans' Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?
  5. FDA, Questions and Answers on the New Menu and Vending Machines Nutrition Labeling Requirements
  6. FDA, 100 Years of Protecting and Promoting Women’s Health
  7. CDC, Spina Bifida and Anencephaly Before and After Folic Acid Mandate --- United States, 1995--1996 and 1999--2000