In May 2016, the FDA announced the first major overhaul to the nutrition facts panel since 1993. Here’s what you need to know.
The Biggest Changes
The serving size is being updated to reflect how people eat and drink today, which has changed since standardized serving sizes were first established 20 years ago. Packaged foods and drinks that are typically eaten in one sitting, such as a bag of chips, will have to be labeled as a single serving with the calorie and nutrient information declared for the entire package. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda, typically consumed all at once, will be labeled as one serving instead of more than one serving. This will help clear up confusion with the calories and nutrition information on this packages.
For certain packages that are larger and could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, the label will have two columns – one that indicates nutrition information per serving, and the other that shows the nutrition info for the entire package. This way, people can easily understand and see how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.
Removal of “Calories from Fat”
We now know that the type of fat is more important than the amount. With this in mind, calories from fat will no longer be including on the nutrition label. Total Fat, Saturated Fat and Trans fat will still be required.
Inclusion of “Added Sugars”
On the current label only the total amount of sugar is shown. This number includes both natural sugars, such as those found in fruits and milk, as well as sugars that are added and not originally present in the food. The main sugar we need to think about is added sugar, as a high amount of added sugar tends to indicate a highly processed and low-nutrient food.
Addition of Potassium and Vitamin D
These are two micronutrients that many people fall short on, so they will be added to the new nutrition facts panel. Potassium plays an important role in regulating (and lowering) blood pressure while vitamin D has a role in bone health, among other health benefits. In addition, the actual amounts of the micronutrients will be listed, instead of just percentage of daily value. Calcium and iron will still be required on the label, while vitamin A and vitamin C will only be voluntary.
Larger Font Size
Calories and serving size will be emphasized in a larger font. This is important as many people don’t clearly look at serving size, so they don’t realize how many servings they are eating.
What It Doesn’t Do
- I would love to see more meaningful measurements – such as teaspoons of sugar in a serving, instead of grams. It’s impossible to understand how much 25 grams of sugar is, and much easier to picture it as 5 teaspoons of sugar. Fewer people might buy that fruit-flavored yogurt if they knew it contained 5 teaspoons of sugar.
- There is still no fast and easy way to distinguish a better choice among similar products. The new label updates don’t include front-of-package labeling or traffic light signals to highlight the good, bad or neutral health value of a food.
- There is no mention about the ingredient list – one of the most important parts of the nutrition label. Nutrition facts are important, but food manufacturers can easily manipulate those numbers by what ingredients they add. For example, they can make something appear low in sugar and calories, but then add a hefty dose of sugar substitutes or sugar alcohols. Or they can use not-so-great ingredients and then fortify the product with vitamins and minerals to make the nutrition facts panel look better.
While the changes were originally to be in place by mid-2018, the FDA recently announced it is extending the deadline for food companies to comply with the new nutrition labels. It is unclear when the new nutrition facts label will go into effect.
What questions do you have about the new nutrition panel? Share your thoughts or questions below in the comments section and be sure to sign-up for Luvo¹s newsletter for exclusive giveaways, tips and recipes.