February 27, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Focus of food labels shifts

FDA proposes putting more emphasis on sugar and calorie counts

First lady Michelle Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington about helping parents and other consumers make healthier choices as part of her Let's Move program. (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Washington ó Ice cream lovers beware: The government knows youíre unlikely to stop after half a cup.

New nutrition labels proposed Thursday for many popular foods, including ice cream, aim to more accurately reflect what people actually eat. And the proposal would make calorie counts on labels more prominent, too, reflecting that nutritionists now focus more on calories than fat.

For the first time, labels also would be required to list any sugars that are added by manufacturers.

In one example of the change, the estimated serving size for ice cream would jump from a half cup to a cup, so the calorie listing on the label would double as well.

The idea behind the change, the first overhaul of the labels in two decades, isnít that the government thinks people should be eating twice as much; itís that they should understand how many calories are in what they already are eating. The Food and Drug Administration says that, by law, serving sizes must be based on actual consumption, not some ideal.

ďOur guiding principle here is very simple, that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf and be able to tell whether itís good for your family,Ē said first lady Michelle Obama, who joined the FDA in announcing the proposed changes at the White House.

Mrs. Obama made the announcement as part of her Letís Move initiative to combat child obesity, which is marking its fourth anniversary. On Tuesday, she announced new Agriculture Department rules that would reduce marketing of less-healthful foods in schools.

The new labels would be less cluttered. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg called them ďa more user-friendly version.Ē

But they are probably several years away. The FDA will take comments on the proposal for 90 days, and a final rule could take another year. Once itís final, the agency has proposed giving industry two years to comply.

This handout image provide by the Food and Drug Administration shows, from ... (FDA)