Changes to Food Labels Affect Shakespeare's Pizza in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Nutrition labels on food packages are about to get a new look, a change intended to have a dramatic effect on what people choose to eat and drink.

For small, local businesses like Shakespeare's Pizza in Columbia, the change comes with a hefty price tag.

"We purchased giant, metal plates that we use to stamp the nutrition labels onto the product, unlike other businesses who probably use stickers," said Claire Buttice, Frozen Sales Manager for Shakespeare's.

The plates cost about $6,000 each. Since Shakespeare's has four different varieties of frozen pizzas, the cost of the new stamps will be around $24,000.

"Looks like those very, very expensive plates aren't going to make it for the next few years. So that would be something that we need to look into," said Buttice.

The new label, which was proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, includes more than half a dozen significant changes, including a refreshed format to emphasize calories.

"The calorie information is going to be a lot larger and a lot more bold so that consumers can see it more easily," said nutrition specialist Cindy Deblauw.

The new labels will also have updated serving sizes in an effort to more accurately reflect what people usually eat and drink. For example, a 20-ounce soda will be considered just one serving instead of two and a half.

"We've found it's important for serving sizes to be as accurate as possible, so we need to be listing the amount that consumers typically eat, not just the amount we'd like them to eat," said Deblauw.

More changes include the exclusion of Vitamins A and C and the addition of Vitamin D and Potassium, as those nutrients are considered to be more vital.

Some nutritionists said they hope these changes will make a drastic difference in the way people shop for food.

"It's a step in the right direction of taking what we know about human behavior and about nutrition and making it available to people so that everyone knows what they're consuming," Deblauw said.

We won't see the new labels right away, however. Once implemented, businesses will have up to two years to use up their current stock of labels and introduce the new ones.

"We're Shakespeare's. We're used to change," said Buttice. "We're used to making sure that we can do what we need to do to get it done in the right amount of time and in a way that we're proud of."

The proposal will undergo a 90-day comment period, during which experts and members of the public can provide input on the changes. The FDA will then issue a final rule.

Officials said they hope to complete the process this year.

For the full FDA news release, click here.