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How the FDA is Changing Nutrition Labeling and Why it Matters

Nutritional labels are changing
Nutritional labels are changing

Did you know that the nutrition labels in the U.S. haven’t changed for 20 years? In the past 2 decades, scientists and researchers have made a lot of discoveries about how different ingredients affect our health, and the FDA is finally requiring package labels to reflect that research.

 

Nutrition label changes

What’s staying the same

The FDA isn’t changing the overall look of the nutrition label. It will still feature the same white background and black font, as well as the same formatting. The main changes visually are the size of different elements on the label, including the serving size and calorie count.

 

Calories will be the most noticeable thing on the label

The new label has calories listen in big bold writing, because that’s the thing most people care about the most. It’s also an effort to help Americans stay in a healthy weight range by being more aware of the calories they eat.

 

Serving sizes are getting an overhaul

On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced their new nutrition label, which would make a stronger link between conditions like obesity and diabetes and the food we put into our bodies. The new labels have a larger font size for serving sizes, making it much more apparent to consumers what they are actually getting when they buy food products.

The serving sizes themselves are also changing to reflect the amount that Americans typically eat rather than what we should be eating. For example, one serving of ice cream used to be ½ cup but now it’s ⅔ cup. Apparently, we’re eating quite a bit more than we did 20 years ago.

Also, since package size affects how much people eat, food packages that contain 1-2 servings will now be required to be labeled as one serving, since most people will eat or drink it all at once.

 

What’s being added and taken out

There’s also an added line for added sugars in grams and in percent daily value. This change is based on scientific data that it’s difficult to get all of your nutrients while staying within the calorie limit for your body if you eat more than 10% of your total daily calories from added sugar. Added sugars include sugar as well as sugars from syrups and honey. They also include sugar in concentrated juice that is in excess of the amount of sugar you would find in the same volume of 100% fruit or vegetable juice.

The nutrients required on the labels are being changed as well. Potassium and Vitamin D are now required to be listed on labeling, while Vitamins A and C won’t be required anymore. This is because most Americans don’t get enough Potassium or Vitamin D, but we do get enough Vitamin A and C.

Interestingly, the label for Calories from Fat is being removed, as the FDA reports that overall calories from fat don’t matter nearly as much as the types of fat you eat.

If you want to see how the changes will actually look, the FDA has provided a great reference where you can see the changes on different types of nutrition facts labels.

 

Compliance dates are changing

In May of 2016, the FDA announced a compliance date of July 2018 for all food packages to have the new nutrition labels. On June 13, 2017, however, they announced that they intend to extend the deadline. They haven’t said when the new deadline will be, but check back here for the update when they do.

The FDA notes that these date changes are being made to help manufacturers have enough time to change their packaging. They also want to minimize customer confusion and one way to do this is to have as little overlap as possible between the old and new nutrition labels.

 

Who do these changes affect?

All food manufacturers in the U.S. are required to make these changes. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to make the changes. Foods imported into the U.S. will also need to make these changes.

Not all food manufacturers need nutrition labels, however. If you’re not sure if your food packaging needs a nutrition label, read my post on how to know whether or not your product needs a nutrition label.

As for the effect on consumers, the FDA writes that they aren’t trying to “force” Americans to eat in a different way. They just want to make sure that we have a clear sense of what we’re eating so that we can make more informed decisions about what to buy and what to eat.

 

Do you need to update your packaging?

Even though the compliance date for changing your packaging has been extended, it would be a good idea to start thinking about updating your packaging as soon as you can so that you can be in compliance. Let me know if you want to talk about changing your food packaging!

 

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