Big Changes Coming to Nutrition Facts Label

The first major changes in 20 years will go into effect by July, 2018.

The FDA on Friday finalized a major facelift to nutrition labels on food packaging, the first comprehensive update since the government began requiring labels in the early 1990s. Among other changes, calorie counts will be more visible and portion sizes will be closer to what the average American consumes.

“The changes were a long time coming,” Mary Saucier Choate, manager for Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement at the Partnership for Food Safety Education, said in an email on Sunday. “It will make it easier to find the nutrients you may be looking to boost or limit in your diet.”

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Mary is a long-time Co-op member, registered dietitian, and the Co-op’s former Food and Nutrition Educator. I reached out to her to learn more about what the new changes mean for consumers.

“The new label will use dual columns to clearly indicate the nutrition information for one serving and for the whole container,” Mary said. “No math calculations are needed to see what you are getting if you choose to eat a single serving or the whole package.” 

Other changes include:

Calories and Fat
Total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat will still be required, as research shows saturated and trans fat are important to limit for heart health. Calories from fat will be removed, since the type of fat is more important than the amount. 

Added Sugars
Grams of added sugars will be clearly stated. The label will also show the percent of Daily Value of added sugars to help consumers stay under the recommended limit of 10 percent of added sugars daily. Naturally present sugars in fruits, milk, and similar foods are not considered added sugars. “Dietitians and other nutrition–savvy folks have been hoping for this change for ages,” Mary said.

Additional Updates 

  • Recommended Daily Values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D will be updated to match Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Important nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron will be shown in mg/mcg in addition to percentage of Daily Value.
  • Vitamins A and C will no longer be required since deficiencies are rare and the nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.
  • An abbreviated footnote will better explain the Percent Daily Value (%DV). 

In a statement, the FDA said label regulations apply to packaged foods except certain meat, poultry, and processed egg products, which are regulated by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. The FDA is also making minor changes to the Supplement Facts label found on dietary supplements to make it consistent with the Nutrition Facts label.  

Resources
Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/14-appendix-E2/e2-43.asp 

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Ken Davis

Ken Davis

Ken is a writer in the Co-op Outreach Department. Email him at kdavis@coopfoodstore.com.