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Get to Know the New Nutrition Facts Label

Submitted By Amy Sercel MS RD

Edited By Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

After more than two years of debate, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the Nutrition Facts Label will be getting a much-needed overhaul.  These changes are exciting, especially since the Nutrition Facts Label has not really changed since 1995.1 The new label was developed after the FDA considered how the American diet has changed over the past twenty years, the scientific evidence that supports the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the advice from organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Institute of Medicine.1,2 Although the format of the label will not change much, the specific information included will be adjusted to better reflect what people eat and help make more informed food choices.

Calories and Serving Sizes

On the new label, the calorie contents will be written in large bold print so people pay more attention to the number of calories in one serving.  Serving sizes will also be revised to show what people actually eat, instead of what they should eat.  For example, right now a serving of soda is considered to be 8 ounces of a 12- or 16-ounce bottle.  Since most people drink the whole bottle, the serving size will be increased to 12 ounces on the new label, with the nutrient information adjusted accordingly.  Smaller packages that can be eaten in one sitting will list the nutrient information both for one serving and for the entire package.2 This way, the calorie and nutrient content of foods will be clearer, and you won’t have to do math to determine the number of calories in your food if you eat more than one serving.

Added Sugars

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend for people to keep their daily intake of added sugar below 10% of total calories.3 Sugar is naturally found in any carbohydrate-containing food, but eating a lot of added sugar can lead to chronic diseases and obesity.  Since the current label does not distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars, it is difficult to know how much sugar is added to a food.  The new label will solve this problem by adding the line, “Includes ___ g Added Sugars” below the “Total Carbohydrates” heading.2,4 It will be especially important to look for this on foods that may contain both naturally occurring and added sugars, such as yogurt or granola bars.

Vitamins and Minerals

The amount of Vitamin A and Vitamin C will not be listed on the Nutrition Facts Label anymore.  Instead, the label will reveal the amount of Vitamin D and potassium that the food contains.  The Dietary Guidelines Committee determined that Americans typically meet our needs for Vitamin A and Vitamin C, but are not eating enough Vitamin D or potassium.2 Since deficiencies of these nutrients are associated with chronic diseases like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, it is important to make sure you are getting enough.5 We are still not meeting our needs for calcium, so it will continue to be listed on the label.

Notably, the new Nutrition Facts Label will now state the actual amount of each vitamin and mineral in addition to the percent daily value.  This information will be helpful for people who need to carefully monitor their intake of certain nutrients, as they will no longer have to multiply the percentage by the Recommended Daily Intake to find out the food’s vitamin or mineral content.1,2

When Will I See the New Label?

While these changes are exciting, it will probably be a while before you see the new Nutrition Facts Label on any foods.  The FDA has given food companies until July 26, 2018 to make the changes.  This will allow them time to sell out of products with the old label and do any research necessary to make the new labels accurate.  In the meantime, if you are interested in learning whether your foods contain added sugars, you can look for one of the many names of sugar in the ingredients list.  You can also look foods up in the USDA Nutrient Database to find out their exact nutrient content.

References:

 

  1.  Comments to FDA re: Revisions to Nutrition Facts Label and Serving Sizes. www.eatrightpro.org. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/news-center/on-the-pulse-of-public-policy/regulatory-comments/comments-to-fda-re-revisions-to-nutrition-facts-label-and-serving-sizes. Accessed May 31, 2016.
  2.  Nutrition C for FS and A. Labeling & Nutrition – Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm. Accessed May 31, 2016.
  3.  A Closer Look at Current Intakes and Recommended Shifts – 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines – health.gov. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/. Accessed May 31, 2016.
  4.  Laquatra I, Sollid K, Smith Edge M, Pelzel J, Turner J. Including “Added Sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel: How Consumers Perceive the Proposed Change. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115(11):1758-1763. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.04.017.
  5.  Part D. Ch 1: Food and Nutrient Intakes, p. 2 – 2015 Advisory Report – health.gov. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/06-chapter-1/d1-2.asp. Accessed May 31, 2016.

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