TODAY   |  January 25, 2014

FDA to revise food nutrition labels

Nutrition labels are getting a makeover for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Food and Drug Administration hopes the new labels will be easier to read.  NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

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>>> time in two decades, labels on foods you eat are getting a makeover. ayman modin has more on this.

>> lester, good morning. there are labels we see on boxes when we go into the supermarket, and it tells us about everything we eat, from the sugars and fats and everything in between. it becomes so important into what we eat and what we feed our families that the fda 's ready to make some big changes to them. they are the nutritional labels on all our favorite foods, and now they're getting a new look with what the food and drug administration hopes will be easier-to-read information.

>> let's take a look at how the label is now. nutrition facts , followed by serving size , tells you that. now, when you come to vitamins and minerals you need, a lot of that may not be necessary, because there's almost nothing in a lot of products.

>> the sweeping change that many believe is long overdue.

>> reporter: it was 1993 when the fda first introduced food labels, spelling out exactly how much sugar, fat and everything else we were consuming. but while our diet changed, the labels didn't. the fda says, "there is now a shift to focus on calories to help consumers construct healthy diets."

>> the hope with the new label is that the calories per serving will be prominently displayed right at the top, so you know from the start what a serving is.

>> reporter: while the fda won't say when the new labels will hit store shelves or what exactly the changes will be, consumers should find out in the next few months.

>> the fda is going to release these recommendations end of march. everyone will have an opportunity to decide, do they like these changes, because it is a work in progress .

>> reporter: according to the usda, 42% of working-age adults read the label always or most of the time. older adults use it 57% of the time. but it's not, of course, a guaranteed recipe for success.

>> easy-to-understand nutrition label is the first step. getting more people to use it is really the goal.

>> now, we've all done it, we've stopped and looked at the labels, and we think we're about to eat something that's healthy, but then we realize that's only per serving size , and we sit there and try to do the math of how many actual servings we are consuming. yeah, a lot.

>> i applaud the change, because it does get confusing sometimes.

>> yeah, so, the hope is to try to make it a little more simple for people to read when they do pick up that box.

>> i'll take it because i once ate aen tire thing i thought was low in calories and i ate three servings.

>> it turned out to be like 1,300 calories.

>> it turned out to be like 1,400, because it was like three servings.