Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a major fashion makeover to the existing food label for the first time in more than 20 years! As you can imagine, our knowledge of nutrition science, as well as the link between diet and chronic disease development has greatly increased since 1990’s. It may seem shocking, but the food label (i.e. the Nutrition Facts Panel) has only experienced one minor alteration in 2006 when information on trans fat was first required. The changes to the food label are not only science-based, but are in the best interest of consumers! First Lady Michelle Obama stated “our guiding principle here is very simple: that as a parent and a consumer you should be able to walk into a local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether its good for your family.”
New changes to the label include:
- Required labeling of added sugars! The 2015 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults limit their intake added sugars to less than 10% of their daily calories (~200 calories).
- Updated serving size information that reflects the amounts American’s currently consume.
- “Dual column” labeling that indicates both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information, for packages that could be consumed in one or multiple settings.
- Required declaration of amounts of potassium and vitamin D. FDA also expanded voluntary labeling for nutrients such as choline, a vitamin that nearly 90% of Americans do not meet recommended intakes.
- Removal of the “Calories from Fat” distinction since research shows that the type of fat is more important than the amount (e.g. omega-3 fats are beneficial; trans-fats are harmful).
- A refreshed format to emphasize certain elements such as calories.
Most food manufacturers will need to comply with this new FDA regulation by July 26th, 2018. These regulations will also be applied to imported food and beverage products.
Even though the FDA requires that most packaged foods carry the standardized food label (i.e., also known as the Nutrition Facts Panel) that provides certain nutrition information intended to help consumers make healthful choices, in recent years, manufacturers have begun to include additional nutrition messages, often represented in symbol form, on their food packages. These messages are commonly referred to as “front-of-package” labeling. Good examples of these types of programs include the Facts Up Front campaign launched by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) as well as Weight Watchers points labeled on many foods in grocery stores and restaurants.
To learn more about the changes to the food label visit the FDA’s Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label page.