A Makeover for the Nutrition Facts Label

*Updated 5/20/16*Just how realistic are the serving sizes on nutrition labels? Is there a difference between natural sugars and added sugars? What’s the most important thing people should focus on when reading the Nutrition Facts Label? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved changes on the Nutrition Facts Label for the first time in more than 20 years. Just what do those changes mean? What will you see on the nutrition label?

 Current Nutrition Facts Label                     New Nutrition Facts Label

new nutrition facts

According to the FDA, the new label changes include:

  • Larger and bolder calorie typeface.
  • “Added sugars” listed in grams and as percent Daily Value. Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar, and this is consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Updated serving sizes to more closely reflect the amount of food people actually eat. How much people eat and drink has changed since the previous serving size requirements were published over 20 years ago. For example, the reference amount used to set a serving of ice cream was previously ½ cup but is changing to ⅔ cup.
  • The removal of “Calories from Fat” because research shows the tupe of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will be still be required on the label.
  • Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D based on newer scientific evidence from the Institute of Medicine and other reports such as the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report.
  • Updated list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared. Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label, calcium and iron will continue to be required and vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis.

Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, who also serves on the Facts Up Front advisory panel, provided her thoughts on the proposed changes:

Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD (On February 27, 2014):

The proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel will hopefully make it easier for people to see what they are consuming. Making a shift to actual serving size, not the “industry standard” will make nutrition information more usable. The proposal to add ‘added sugars’ will allow people to see how much natural sugar many foods contain so they can weigh pros and cons, deciding which is the best choice. These changes are just one part in the battle of lowering obesity rates, but if grocery shopping is easier, consumers might, in fact, begin to change eating behaviors. Another easy shopping tool is using the Facts Up Front nutrient flags. The front of package flags quickly allow consumers to see key nutrients, making shopping easier.

Understanding nutrients in foods can help you use the Nutrition Facts Label more effectively, and help you make choices that best suit your personal diet and health needs.

Manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply.

The image “Nutrition Facts – Scrabble Letters” by Food Facts pm is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0