by Eric F. Greenberg
Food Label Changes Invoke Nutrition, Health, History
There were many reactions to the recent announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of its proposed changes to food nutrition labeling, announced with great fanfare by FDA and first lady Michelle Obama. My reaction was, it made me think of history.
The announcements reminded me that back in the early 1990s, a lot of changes were made to the legally required information on food labels. The single most recognizable of these changes was the then-new Nutrition Facts box, a rectangle set off by a border, with those two words prominently across the top, detailing the food's contents of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, and other substances.
It's not hard to understand why it was the most recognizable feature of the new food label: you could see it from across the room, after all, and because it was specifically required (on larger packages at least) to feature certain information in a specified format that featured a lot of white space, it looked rather modern. It was catchy, and also catching: in subsequent years, FDA also required dietary supplements to feature a similar-looking Supplement Facts box, and over-the-counter drugs to feature a similar-looking Drug Facts box.