If you are one of those consumers that studies food labels (I’m right there with you) or, more importantly, a packaged food supplier, be prepared: your food labels will be getting a makeover.

On May 20, the FDA released its final revised Nutrition Facts Label. Its release caused quite a stir: Michelle Obama made the announcement at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit and praised the new label. The sugar industry has pushed back, and a former FDA official opined that the Nutrition Facts Label is not the solution to our food problems today.

Chances are that the revisions to the Nutrition Facts Label are here to stay. Food companies have a handful of years to bring their labels into compliance with the new rules, but consumers will likely see the new labels infiltrating grocery aisles sooner as voluntary compliance takes shape.

What has changed? The most controversial change is the addition of a disclosure of the amount of added sugars. Instead of listing the only the number of grams of sugar, with no distinction between added sugar and naturally-occurring sugar, the revised Nutrition Facts Label requires disclosure of the amount of total sugars, as well as the amount of added sugars in grams and as a percent of the (newly established) daily value of added sugar.

Visually, the most notable changes are the bolded and increased font sizes for the serving size and number of calories. The calorie information is prominently displayed on the Nutrition Facts Label, drawing the consumer’s eye to that piece of information. The FDA also:

  • updated the serving size to reflect the amount a person actually eats, not what a person should be eating (e.g., one serving of ice cream is now 2/3 of a cup instead of ½ of a cup);
  • provided a “dual column” format to show “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain foods;
  • removed the disclosure about Calories from Fat;
  • revised the nutrients that are required to be listed (replacing required disclosures about Vitamin A and C with required disclosures about Vitamin D and Potassium); and
  • edited the footnote at the bottom of the Nutrition Facts Label about what the Percent Daily Value means, among other changes.

Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales must use the new label by July 26, 2018; manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales have an additional year and must comply by July 26, 2019.

The revised regulations are more complex than the summary above; please consult your legal counsel for assistance in ensuring that your labels are compliant with the new regulations.