Wow, 2016 has been a year of exciting facelifts at faceless American government agencies. The Treasury Department announced it would replace racist maniac Andrew Jackson with abolitionist and all-around decent human Harriet Tubman as the face of the $20 bill; not to be outdone, the Food & Drug Administration and its red-hot maverick of a new commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf, unveiled a new look to the Nutrition Panel that's required to appear on the mass-produced food-like materials that sustained you through college.
Oh, slight changes to government standards don't exactly scream "baddest news on the net" to you? Well, here's the short version: the new labels feature several changes, the most notable of which are increased serving sizes and an "Added Sugars" section. In short, the FDA has finally acknowledged that Americans are sugar fiends who eat way too much.
As the FDA tactfully puts it, "What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the last serving size requirements were published in 1993." That belt's fitting a little bit tighter than it did in the early '90s, America! Lolz, you got fat. Basically, the serving size jumped up, because who's going to eat 200 calories of mint chocolate chip ice cream? There's still approximately 123 minutes of Jerry Maguire left once you finish.
Another component to the serving-size change is that companies can't get away with claiming there are 17 servings in a 40oz jug of soda, or whatever people buy in Texas now. If a food or drink is sold in a package meant to be consumed by one person, it equals one serving.
Packaged food tends to have more added sugar than people realize
Which is why the new label has a handy "Includes Xg Added Sugars" section, so that consumers will know when their gluten-free "health" crackers actually have a metric ton (approximately) of high-fructose corn syrup pumped into them. And if there's one thing consumers can be trusted to do, it's make healthier decisions based on a few words printed on the tasty substances they're about shove down their esophaguses. That's why no one ever operates heavy machinery after drinking alcohol.
Vitamins A and C are out, D and potassium are in
Everyone's inside on computers all the time and it's making them lonely and sad and deficient in vitamin D and potassium. Americans used to be deficient in A and C, but a new era calls for new vitamin deficiencies -- which means vitamin D and potassium levels are required, while A and C move into the "optional" category.
All in all, these aren't bad changes
Look, say what you will about the effectiveness and speed with which vast government bureaucracies operate, these changes at least acknowledge two fundamental problems with the American food industry: huge serving sizes and too much sugar, the latter of which contributes to all sorts of nasty health problems from diabetes to heart disease and so on. So now all the FDA has to do is convince people to read these things, which shouldn't be too hard at all, since Americans are known for adapting well and without uproar to information that might require them to modify their behavior.
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Anthony Schneck is the Health editor at Thrillist who doesn't even have a license to operate heavy machinery while sober. Follow him: @AnthonySchneck.