The current food label will soon be no more. After two decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. Making it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices, the FDA announced that the changes are based a combination of public input, updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, and more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups.

Highlights of the changes include:

The Refreshed Label

  • While the label’s appearance will generally remain the same, to highlight certain information the new label includes changes such as increasing the type size for "Calories," "Servings per Container," and the "Serving Size" declaration, and bolding the number of calories and the "Serving Size" declaration to highlight this information.
  • In addition to percent Daily Value of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium, manufacturers must declare the actual amount. For other vitamins and minerals, manufacturers can voluntarily declare the gram amount.
  • To better explain the meaning of Daily Value, the footnote is being changed to read: "*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice."

New Nutrition Science Information

  • "Added sugars," in grams and as percent Daily Value, will be included on the label.
  • The FDA updated the list of nutrients required or permitted to be declared and now requires that vitamin D and potassium are included on the label. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but may be included voluntarily.
  • "Total Fat," "Saturated Fat," and "Trans Fat" are still required on the label, but "Calories from Fat" is being removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Based on scientific evidence from the Institute of Medicine and other reports such as the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D are being updated.
  • FDA has determined 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." The idea here is to more clearly convey to consumers the amount of sugar added to a product, as opposed to that amount that is inherent in the product (e.g., refined sugar added for sweetener, as opposed to sugars that might come naturally from ingredients like fruit).

Serving Size Adjustments

  • By law, serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating – and the amount people eat and drink has changed since the previous serving size requirements were published in 1993. For example, the reference amount used to set a serving of ice cream was previously ½ cup but is changing to ⅔ cup. The reference amount used to set a serving of soda is changing from 8 ounces to 12 ounces.
  • Noting that package size affects what people eat, 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.
  • Manufacturers will have to provide "dual column" labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients on both a "per serving" and "per package"/"per unit" basis for certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. Dual-column labels will make it easy to understand how many calories and nutrients people are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.

Compliance Dates

  • Most manufacturers will need 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 comply.

New Label Format

  • In addition to larger bold font identifying the servings, the new label includes Added Sugars, updated serving sizes, updated daily values, actual amounts declared for vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium, and a new footnote explaining % Daily Value.

For illustrative purposes, the FDA provided the image below.

Click here to view image.

Implementation

In addition to the highlighted changes, the new FDA food label rules are hundreds of pages long. To fully comply with these new rules, companies will need to understand each aspect which includes certain technical definitions (e.g. the definition of added sugars).

The Federal Register notice for the final rule can be found here. The FDA’s highlights can be found here.