Coming: A New Nutrition Facts Label

On May 20, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for foods—but the FDA has extended the deadline since then, without establishing a new deadline.

The new second edition of our book, Blood Glucose Levels and Diabetes Control—the first book in our Diabetes Leading Edge Seriestmcontains a section on the new labeling. We’re posting the entire section here, as a blog. It’s a bit on the long side for a blog, but it will introduce you to our style, in case you haven’t read any of our books.

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The FDA requires food labeling for most prepared foods, but nutrition labeling for “conventional” foods—fruits, vegetables, and fish—is voluntary.

The labeling revisions reflect the latest information about the link between diet and both obesity and heart disease. They highlight calories and servings, and indicate the number of grams of sugar added to a food. Consumers will be able to use the new label to make better choices about what they eat and the food they feed their families.

And consumers do pay attention to the labels. The FDA’s 2014 Health and Diet Survey reveals that, when buying a food product, 50 percent of adults read the Nutrition Facts label “always” or “most of the time.” Another 27 percent read it “sometimes.”

Some food manufacturers already use the new label. Those whose annual food sales total less than $10 million were given until July 26, 2019 to comply; however, as noted above, FDA has now extended the deadline.

The new label has several key changes. It zeroes in on added sugars, reflects new thinking about fats, updates serving-size requirements, and adds some required nutrients.

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Added Sugars

Under the current draft, labels will give a percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars, but will continue to list grams of sugar. “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 sugars,” the FDA said in a news release.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee commented in their report, “Strong evidence shows that higher consumption of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults and this relationship is not fully explained by body weight.”

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Dietary Fats

The new label will remove the listing for “Calories from Fat,” but leave the “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” categories. Research has shown that the type of fat consumed is more important than total fat.

If left unchanged, the new labeling will also:

  • Emphasize calories and number of servings
  • Specify serving sizes that reflect what people currently eat
  • Provide dual column labels that show “per package” and “per serving” calorie and nutrition information; this will apply to products that could be eaten in one or more sittings, such as a pint of ice cream
  • Label as one serving the calories and other nutrients in products usually consumed in one sitting, such as a 20-ounce soda
  • Include the gram amount (in addition to the %DV) of Vitamin D and potassium (Americans face an increased risk of chronic disease because they don’t always get enough of these nutrients)
  • No longer require listing Vitamins A and C (deficiencies are rare), but voluntary listing is accepted

Below is an illustration comparing the old and new labels for a hypothetical product. Note several changes: the listing for serving size, the emphasis on calories per serving, and the entry “Total Sugars 12g, which, as the label notes, includes 10g Added Sugars,” for a total contribution of 20% of Daily Value (20%DV).

 

FDA sums up the changes nicely in a visual, New Label / What’s Different: