The Nutrition Facts Food Label Makeover

| Posted On Sep 11, 2019 | By:

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated a redesign of the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods and beverages. The new design is meant to be easier to read and to provide more useful nutritional information that will help you make informed decisions about the foods you purchase and consume.

The Nutrition Facts label was last updated in 1993. Since that time, nutrition research has provided new information to health experts and identified new ways to help people develop and sustain healthier eating habits. And consumer feedback on how best to present nutrition information was incorporated into the design of the new label as well.

You may continue to see the old Nutrition Facts label on some foods until January of 2021. Larger food manufacturers (ones with $10 million or more in annual food sales) were required to switch to the new food label in 2018; smaller manufacturers have until January 1, 2021 to comply. Manufacturers of single-ingredient sugars such as honey and maple syrup have until July 1, 2021. It’s also important to note that the FDA labeling requirements will be required for imported foods.

What is different about the new food labels? The following 7 key changes have been made.

#1: Calories are listed more prominently.

Under the old labeling laws, the caloric content didn’t really stand out even though it was listed at the top. Now calories will be listed in a large, bold font so that they quickly and easily catch your eye.

#2: Servings Per Container is also more prominent.

Servings per container AND serving size will be displayed together in a larger, bold font.

If a package contains two servings or more, you can now easily calculate the true number of calories and the percentage of nutrients listed on the label (especially important if you eat the entire package during a meal).

#3: Portion size is more visible (and more realistic).

The serving sizes that most Americans eat are larger than the serving size guidelines that were used in 1993. On the new Nutrition Facts label, the serving sizes have been updated to reflect the actual amount of food that is customarily eaten at one time.

For example, even though the older nutrition facts label for packaged snack foods and soda stated that they contained several servings, most people consume the entire container (or multiple servings) at a single sitting. Now the FDA requires that a snack food package be labeled as one serving if the entire package is likely to be consumed in one sitting.

Further, if the food package contains more than a single serving but might be consumed in one sitting – such as a large bag of potato chips – food manufacturers are required to include a “dual column” that lists the calories and nutrients in one serving as well as those contained in the entire package.

#4: Added Sugars are now listed separately.

New food labels are now required to include an additional line for added sugar – in other words, sugar that was not a natural part of the food but was added to the product. The added sugar will be listed in both grams and as a % Daily Value. This is an important addition because all major health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Institute of Medicine (IOM), American Heart Association (AHA) and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that added sugar should be reduced in our diets.

#5: Changes were made to some of the minerals and vitamins listed at the bottom of the label.

Labels now must include information about Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. These changes came about because many Americans do not get enough of these vitamins and minerals in their diets. The nutrition information for these nutrients will be listed as Percent Daily Value. With the new labeling law these nutrients also will be listed in milligrams.

The Percent Daily Values were calculated based on the following dietary goals:

Vitamin D                           400 IU
Calcium                               1,000 mg
Iron                                      18 mg
Potassium                          3,500 mg

Food manufacturing companies are no longer required to provide information about Vitamin A and Vitamin C because research shows that most people get enough of these vitamins.

#6: Both Calories from Fat and Suggested Calories from Fat for 2,000 and 2,500 calorie diets have been removed.

Information about total fat, saturated and trans-fats will continue to be a part of the Nutrition Facts label but based on new research, “calories from fat” will no longer be included. The FDA and other health experts have determined that it is not the total amount of fat consumed but rather the type of fat that has the most effect on overall nutrition and health.

#7: A New “% Daily Value” Footnote has been added.

The footnote states, “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.”

comparison of old and new food label

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Margaret Ullmann-Weil, RD

About Margaret Ullmann-Weil, RD

Margaret (Margie) is a Registered Dietitian and provides nutritional guidance and education to our patients at Harvard Vanguard Cambridge and Post Office Square (Boston). She joined Atrius Health in 2003. Her clinical interests are food allergies, celiac disease, other gastrointestinal issues, nutrition & functional medicine, and women’s nutrition.

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