It’s about time for an updated nutrition label, and thankfully, the Food and Drug Administration recognized that.
"On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The new label will make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices. FDA published the final rules in the Federal Register on May 27, 2016."
The new label will be updated with new requirements being implemented relating to the amount and type of information found, based on the discoveries made about the American diet in the past 20+ years. Personally, I think this is a great move. Here’s why:
There is no need to squint.
The current nutrition label is boring and dull - not to mention hard to read for many. The new changes includes increasing the type size for arguably the most important information - calories, servings per container, and serving size - and bolding the number of calories and servings.
More vitamins and minerals are shown. This is a huge update. Before, the only required nutrients were Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Iron. That was kinda lame because, for someone who eats generally healthy, it is practically impossible to not get your daily value of Vitamins A and C. They are fortified in countless foods. To put into perspective, half of a commercially prepared pumpkin pie would give you more vitamin A than required in a day. The new required nutrients are Vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium - all of which deficiencies are common in the United States.
Many people have realized these deficiencies and tried to incorporate more into their diets, but are just lost in the dark because hardly any foods would include the (what used to be) optional potassium and Vitamin D.
In addition to needing to include those four nutrients, now it is necessary to also include the actual amount, in addition to percent Daily Value. Here is a chart for help understanding the units. In my opinion it's a neat change, but all I care about is still the percentage.
Another minor change is at the bottom of the label, the DV explanation will be worded slightly differently: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a Two categories: micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and m... More in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”
It reflects that not all sugars are created equal.
This may be the best change. Nutrition labels now show how much of the sugar is added sugar. Previously numerous nutrients (the healthy, unhealthy, and in between) were oversimplified into the broad category of “sugar.” Previously, the nutrition label of a mango would be quite similar to one of a can of Pepsi: 40-50 grams of sugar. That is a problem, because a mango’s sugar is far better for you.
"Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar."
It reflects that not all fats are created equal.
While keeping “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” is being removed. That is a nice little tweak caused by how much the world has learned about the different types of fat, recognizing that the quality is more important than the amount.
See also: Get to Know Your Nutrients
It has a more accurate DV.
The Daily Value, or amount of each nutrient like dietary fiber, Vitamin D, and sodium that we should either consume at least per day (in the case of many vitamins) or no more than per day (examples being sodium and cholesterol) are getting updated.
More accurate serving sizes.
This should not affect the more hardcore healthy eaters (i.e. the ones that go more in-depth like counting calories, calculating macronutrient ratios, googling those 12 letter long ingredients, etc.) too much, because they already know how much they eat, but is great for the person that casually likes to glance at the label before eating, but doesn’t read too much into it.
The federal law states that serving sizes are to be how much people actually eat, not how much they should eat. That is how it has been and how it will be. The issue is the amount people tend to eat has changed tremendously since 1993 (like soda from 8 ounces to 12 ounces on average).
So, the serving sizes are being updated. That is good news for those that read their pint of ice cream is only 250 calories, then down the whole thing, not realizing until later, if they do at all, that the 250 was referring to the calories in half a cup - ¼ of the tub. As the FDA says:
"Package size affects what people eat. So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting."
No more being tricked by “low A unit commonly used to measure the amount of energy that is... More” foods with tiny serving sizes. However, some products are larger than a single serving, and can be consumed in one sitting, but are also sometimes eaten in multiple sittings. Let's go back to our ice cream example. For things like this, manufacturers will have to make two labels, one based on the nutrition of a serving (that serving being larger), and one with the nutrition of the entire package. Two different calorie amounts, two different nutrient tabs. This won't be necessary for items with more than four servings, where it would be a little out of the ordinary to eat all of it at once.
Why aren't I seeing these labels on the shelves?
Unfortunately, the deadline is July 26, 2018 (smaller companies get until 2019), so not too many companies have incorporated the new label yet. Looks like we'll have to wait a bit, but get ready, because when that deadline comes, so will a healthier world.
See also: What’s on the Nutrition Label?
Thanks for reading!
“Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm. Accessed 11 August 2016.
"Vitamin A Fact Sheet For Health Professionals." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/. Accessed 11 August 2016.