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The FDA is Stepping Up!

On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The new label will make it easier for us as consumers to make better informed food choices. FDA published the final rules in the Federal Register, just four months ago.

Nutrition Facts Labels play a key role in helping people make informed choices about food. Whether our food comes in a box, a pouch, or a can, a Nutrition Facts Label provides a quick and easy way to get important information about the food inside.

The good news is the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, wishes to help ensure we’re getting even more information to make healthy food choices.  Furthermore, the foods imported into the United States will have the new FDA food labels as well!

As we discussed last week, the current guidelines for nutrition labels haven’t been updated for more than 20 years. Over that time, the science behind nutrition has changed, as have people’s eating habits. The FDA has used multiple sources to help guide the label changes, including1:

  • New scientific, nutrition, and public health research
  • Recent dietary recommendations from expert groups
  • Suggestions from the public

The “iconic” look of the label remains, but important updates have been made to ensure we consumers have access to the information we need to make informed decisions about our foods. These changes include increasing the type size for “Calories,” “servings per container,” and the “Serving size” declaration, and bolding the number of calories and the “Serving size” declaration to highlight this information.

The list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared is also being updated. Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis by the manufacturers.

The footnote is also changing, to better explain what percent Daily Value means. It will read: “*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.”

The new labels will now have more of the information that is important to you, such as:

  • Calories per serving
  • Serving size
  • Servings per container

The meaning of “Serving size” will be updated to reflect how much people usually eat at one time, rather than how much we should eat.  By law, serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. For example, the reference amount used to set a serving of soda is changing from 8 ounces to 12 ounces.

  • Package size also affects what we eat. So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.

For certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the number of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package” or servings per container.  That way, we will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if we eat or drink the entire package at one time.

Sugar that is added as part of the processing or manufacturing of the food will be called out as an “added sugar”.  The definition of added sugars includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type. The definition excludes fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100 percent fruit juice that is sold to consumers (e.g. frozen 100 percent fruit juice concentrate) as well as some sugars found in fruit and vegetable juices, jellies, jams, preserves, and fruit spreads

According to the FDA, it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10% of your total daily calories from added sugar.1  Reducing sugar intake is also in line with 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture.2

“Calories from fat” will no longer appear on labels, however, “total fat”, “saturated fat”, and “trans fat” will remain. This is because knowing the type of fat can be more important than knowing the amount of fat.2

So when will these changes occur?

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.  Next week, let’s put these labels side by side to see what we’re getting!