For those who read labels on packaged foods, some major changes are coming to make it easier for people to spot added sugars, control their portion sizes and count calories.
In roughly two years, most packaged foods sold in the United States will have to use the new Nutrition Facts label, which was recently finalized by the Food and Drug Administration.
Federal health authorities say the changes are much needed to help people control overeating and make informed decisions about which foods they choose to eat and feed their families.
“For more than 20 years, Americans have relied on the Nutrition Facts label as a leading source of information regarding calories, fat and other nutrients to help them understand more about the foods they eat in a day,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D. “The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource so consumers can make more informed food choices – one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.”
The new label comes as adults and children struggle nationwide with being overweight. More than one-third of adults – 78.6 million – have obesity. Not only does obesity put them at greater risk for heart disease and stroke but also for type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Making sense of food labels is a vital part of the weight loss process. Individualized weight loss programs – such as those offered through the Bon Secours Weight Loss Institute – teach people how to read food labels so they can keep track of the calories, sodium, added sugars, carbohydrates and protein that they eat throughout the day. The new food labels may make that task easier.
One of the most noticeable changes to the Nutritional Facts label will be to what’s listed as a serving size. It will now more accurately reflect what people eat or drink. (Many beverages have listed two servings per bottle but consumers may drink the entire container by themselves.)
Other changes include:
- Listing the grams and a percent daily value (%DV) of added sugars. It’s difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars, according to the FDA and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples include a pint of ice cream and a 3-ounce bag of chips. With dual-column labels available, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package or unit at one time.
- For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
- Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, will now be consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the %DV that manufacturers include on the label.
- Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount, in addition to the %DV. These are nutrients that some people are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. The %DV for calcium and iron will continue to be required, along with the actual gram amount. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins are rare, but these nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.
- “Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.
Most food manufacturers will be required to use the new label by July 26, 2018. Those manufacturers who report less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply with the new rules, according to the FDA.
The FDA is also making minor changes to the Supplement Facts label found on dietary supplements to make it consistent with the Nutrition Facts label.
Source: FDA news release