Back in May of 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that changes would be made to the nutrition label on packaged foods to make it easier to read, reflect new changes in scientific information and identify links to chronic illnesses. Although the deadline for most manufacturers to comply with the changes is not until January 1, 2020, many manufacturers are beginning to update their packaging with the new labels. Here are some of the highlights of the new label.
Starting at the top, the first noticeable change is the larger, bold type for “Serving size.” The serving size information has also been updated to reflect the amount of food people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. According to the FDA website, how much people eat and drink today has changed from the serving size requirements first published in 1993.
In addition, labels for foods packaged in an amount that can be consumed in one sitting, such as a can of soup, now need to reflect the serving size as one serving per package. There may also be dual columns for larger bags, such as chips, that will show the calories and other nutrients a typical serving would contain versus eating the entire bag in one sitting, which often happens.
In the second section, the “Amount of calories per serving” is now a separate category. In addition, the word “Calories” is now enlarged and in boldface type, while the actual number of calories, in this example “230,” is the largest, boldface type on the label, highlighting this important information and making the calorie count immediately apparent.
The third section describes the actual amount (in grams) of “Total Fat,” “Cholesterol,” “Sodium,” “Total Carbohydrate,” and “Protein” in the product, as well as the “% Daily Value” of each. On the new label, “Total calories from fat” has been changed to “Total Fat” and subdivided into “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat.”
One of the most important changes in this section applies to “Total Carbohydrate.” In addition to “Total Sugars” being listed on the label, the label now includes the number of grams of “Added Sugars.” In making this change, the FDA noted that it is “difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calories limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars.”
For example, some food items, such as yogurt, contain sugar from multiple sources: lactose from milk, fructose from fruit, and added sucrose, or table sugar. This change provides you with important information, enabling you to make better decisions about products.
The nutrient list will also be updated. “Vitamin D,” “Calcium,” “Iron,” and “Potassium” and the actual amounts of these nutrients found in the food are required to be on the label. Vitamins A and C are no longer required, but the manufacturer can include them voluntarily. The daily values portion will also be updated to reflect the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The last section is a footnote explaining what is meant by “% DV” or percent Daily Value. The FDA has defined the term to mean “how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition information.” This information helps you understand how the product fits into your total daily diet.
Keep an eye out for these label changes and see how the new and highlighted information helps you to make a more educated decision about the products you buy and the food you consume.