Updated Food Labels – What You Need To Know

At the end of May, many of you may have heard the FDA announce new food labels for packaged foods. The hope is that the new labels will be more effective at helping consumers make better informed food decisions. I do think the new labels are a step in the right direction and the changes are for the better.

Old label

So what has changed?

  • ?Servings per container? is now in bigger type. This is a huge win given that many people do not realize that there could be multiple servings per container and could underestimate the amount of calories, fat, sodium, etc in what they are eating.
  • In addition, the ?serving size? is now updated to better reflect the amount that people typically eat. For example, the serving size for ice cream used to be 1/2 cup and now it is 2/3 cup. Soda serving size will now be labeled as 12 oz instead of 8 oz. As a result, the number of servings per container for these foods will decrease, but the nutrition information listed will better reflect an amount more in line with amount typically consumed. They are also going to be providing ?dual column? labels – one with amounts per serving and one with amounts per package. This will make servings sizes and servings per container more clear. 
  • ?Calorie? and ?serving size amounts” will now be in bigger and bolded type, making it easier to read.
  • Manufacturers must now list the amount of Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. As a nutrition professional I like this, but I?m not sure if the consumer will be able to translate these gram amounts. They will still list %DV as they always have. Also, calcium and iron are no longer mandatory (vitamin D and potassium still are) but manufacturers can include them if they want. This just reflects what is found in dietary trends – Americans are found to be deficient in Vitamin D and potassium more than any other nutrient and calcium, iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C are less of a concern then they were when the food labels were last updated. 
  • ?Added sugars? will now be included under total sugar amounts. This is HUGE and very much needed! Recommendations for lowering sugar intake is in regards to ADDED sugar, not naturally occurring sugar found in unsweetened dairy products and fruit. Now when you look at a food label, you will be able to quickly see how much added sugar is in a product (I have an upcoming blog post about how much added sugar is recommended per day). 
  • ?Calories from fat? has been taken off. So glad about this. It was unnecessary, misleading and confusing. If a food is high in fat, the calories from fat will be high, but that doesn?t mean a food is ?unhealthy?. A good example is peanut butter – the majority of calories in peanut butter comes from fat?as it should be! Avocados (although they rarely have food labels), oils, olives, other nuts and seeds, etc. will also fall into this category. Remember the balanced plate and use fats in meals as condiments and flavorings in addition to higher nutrient dense (and lower calorie dense) foods. 
  • % Daily Value amounts are being updated for sodium, fiber and Vitamin D. This should just assure you that we (nutrition professionals and researchers) continue to learn and aim to provide the most up to date scientific evidence when making nutrition recommendations.

So when can you expect these new changes? Manufacturers are required to use the new label by July 26, 2018. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to make the change. So unfortunately there?s a little wait (par for government services, right!?) but you may see them popping up sooner depending on the manufacturer.

 

What questions do you have about the new labels? I would be happy to answer them!

 

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD