When it comes to food and product labels in today’s market, transparency is the name of the game. According to the 2017 IFIC Food and Health Survey, 90 percent of the population reports consulting the nutrition facts panel when shopping. With this in mind the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized a new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods that will make it easier for consumers to make informed food choices that support a healthy diet.
On May 27, 2016, the FDA published its final rule on the changes that need to take place on nutrition labeling. While consumers may see new product information labels on some of their favorite products in the near future, the FDA recently extended the compliance date for these changes. The new rules are designed to make the nutrition label easier to find and understand, as well as other changes, of which these seven are the most prominent.
1. Larger print size for “Calories”
Calories are one of the first things people look for in their food nowadays and as the FDA works to increase transparency, it wants to make sure this information is as easy to find as possible. Calorie counts will still commonly be found in their customary spot toward the top of the label but now they’ll be more prominent and easier to see.
2. Inclusion of “Added Sugars” to the product label
One of the most significant changes is the new inclusion of a line for “Added Sugars.” This is being done to help consumers understand the amount of sugar that is being added to a product. The FDA currently defines added sugars as “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.” Sugar alcohols, or polyols, taste sweet but are not included in the definition of added sugars because they are not sugar. These low-digestible carbohydrates can be used to replace sugar content in foods to provide a lower-calorie alternative. Some of the most commonly used polyols are erythritol, maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.
3. Changing “Sugars” to “Total Sugars”
Sugar can be added to foods but also is present in healthful foods. This is being done in an effort to help consumers understand the amount of sugar that exists in their product from any source.
4. Removing “Calories from Total Fat”
The FDA chose to make this change because research has shown the type of fat (e.g., polyunsaturated fat) is more important than the total calories from fat. Labels will continue to require listing of “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat.”
5. Larger print size for “Serving Size” and “Servings per Package/Container”
Portion control remains a problem for many people in the United States. Efforts to increase visibility of proper serving size are aimed at helping people make better, more accurate decisions regarding portion size.
6. Requiring the amount of vitamin D and potassium to be listed instead of vitamins A and C
This change reflects a new initiative, based on research from the Institute of Medicine, to increase visibility of vitamin D and potassium requirements. Similar information for vitamins A and C may still be included, but their inclusion is now voluntary.
7. Changing the language of the footnote on “Percent Daily Value”
The new language will specifically state: “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.” This adjustment has been made to better explain what daily value means.