In May, the FDA finalized changes to the nutrition facts label for the first time in 20 years. By summer of 2018, consumers will notice a difference on the labels of food products. These changes reflect new scientific information, such as the link between diet and chronic diseases. The FDA hopes that the new label will help consumers make better-informed food choices and begin to build awareness right at the point where food purchases are made.
1. Sugars Added
The new labels will include added sugars in grams and the percent daily value. While natural sugars are perfectly healthy, the American Heart Association recommends only consuming 6 teaspoons/24 grams of sugar per day. This can be hard, as many foods contain both natural sugars and added sugars. There are hopes that this addition will help reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It will also help the public understand just how much sugar they are consuming in a day. For example, a consumer will now know that when they drink a 20 ounce soda, they are also drinking 130% of the suggested daily added sugar limit.
2. Vitamin List
Food manufacturers will now be required to state the actual amount and percent daily value of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. The daily value of these nutrients are being updated based on new scientific evidence. Vitamin D and potassium are getting added to the labels because they are nutrients that Americans are often lacking. Although vitamin A and vitamin C are important, deficiencies are rare so there is less need to focus on them.
3. Serving Sizes
Have you ever eaten just 4 potato chips or drank just 8 ounces of a 12 ounce soda? Research shows that not many Americans do. The average American eats more today than they did in 1994 (the last time the labeling was changed), so the new serving sizes will better reflect what the average American actually consumes. By law, labels must reflect what Americans typically consume, not what they should consume. Food and drinks that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda, will now be considered one serving since most people would finish it in one sitting.
4. Calorie Counts
More than 77% of Americans use the nutrition facts label when shopping, however, most shoppers only glance at it for a few seconds. Calories and servings per container will now be in a larger type and bolded in hopes to positively impact the consumers choice. “Calories from Fat” is being removed because recent research shows that the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat.
5. Dual Column
Instead of only listing calories and nutrients per serving, manufacturers will now have to also list calories and nutrients per package, hence adding an extra column to the label. The change is also due to the fact that many Americans eat the entire package of what they are eating in one sitting.
The footnote about percent daily value will now say: “The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”
Foods imported to the U.S. will also need to meet the new label requirements. And many in the industry, like the Grocery’s Manufacturer’s Association, have already been making the shift towards including better information on their food packaging.