U.S. Nutrition Labels Get an Update

Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Written by Megan Scarth, AHN Student

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in a press release on May 20, 2016 that nutrition labels on packaged foods in the U.S. will finally be revised. This will be the first revision in over 20 years, and aims to provide consumers with more information so they can make better-educated food choices.

The new nutrition labels won’t be hitting store shelves for a while, though: food manufacturers with over $10 million in annual food sales will need to introduce the revised labels by July 26, 2018, while manufacturers making less than that will have an additional year to introduce the changes.

So what exactly is the FDA going to change? Here are a couple of the bigger adjustments:

  • The serving sizes will be adjusted so that they are closer to how much people actually eat in a single serving. It’s no secret that Americans are generally consuming more calories than they did in 1993 when the last revisions to the labels were made, and so the new labels will more accurately reflect these adjusted serving sizes.
  • In a similar vein, for packaged foods that are between one and two servings, the nutritional values will be displayed for the entire food, since people usually eat those kinds of foods in one sitting. For foods that contain multiple servings, but could still be eaten in one sitting, (like a pint of ice cream) there will be two columns: one for a single serving, and another for the entire container.
  • There will be a new column for added sugars that also shows the % daily value for the sugars, which will be based on the principle that people should not get more than 10% of their caloric intake from added sugars.
  • The daily values for common nutrients will be updated to reflect current recommendations.
  • Vitamins A and D will no longer be required to be shown on the labels because deficiencies in these nutrients are quite rare. “Calories from fat” will also be removed to put more of an emphasis on the quality of the fat rather than the quantity.

These changes seem logical and will hopefully fix some of peoples’ common gripes with the current U.S. nutrition labels. Canadian companies have another four years to introduce the nutrition label changes proposed last summer, which include many similar changes such as standardizing serving sizes, as well as grouping all types of sugars together in the ingredients list to make them easier to identify, so it will be interesting to see the effects of the first round of changed nutrition labels in the U.S., and how that may later apply to Canadian labels. For now, helping people make more informed eating choices certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

Source: FDA News Release - FDA modernizes Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods

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