Last week, the Food and Drug Administration proposed an amendment to its labeling regulations for conventional foods and dietary supplements to update the nutrition information (e.g. the Nutrition Facts labels) on packaged foods/drinks. The updates would come from two proposed rules that are published in the Federal Register. The first--Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels--addresses new scientific information and design changes; the second--Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments--addresses serving sizes, labeling requirements based on package size, and other issues.

FDA has grouped the proposed changes into three categories: (1) Greater Understanding of Nutrition Science; (2) Updated Serving Sizes and Labeling Requirements; and (3) Refreshed Design. Below is a summary of the significant proposals for each category.

  1. Greater Understanding of Nutrition Science
  • New labels must include information about "Added Sugars"
  • Updated "Daily Values" for certain nutrients, including sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D
  • Require listing of potassium, Vitamin D, calcium, and iron amounts
  • Permit listing of Vitamins A and C amounts
  • Remove "Calories from Fat"
  1. Serving Sizes and Labeling Requirements
  • Update serving sizes to reflect how people currently eat and drink
  • Require packaged foods/drinks that are typically consumed in a single sitting to be labeled as a single serving and list the nutrition facts for the entire item
  • Require packaged foods/drinks consumable in single or multiple sittings to include a "dual column" label, listing nutrition facts per serving and per package
  1. Refreshed Design
  • Make calories and serving sizes more prominent
  • List Percent Daily Values before their respective nutrient
  • Update the footnote that previously described Percent Daily Value

With the proposed updates, FDA hopes to assist consumers with healthier eating and in making more informed decisions when choosing foods. The Nutrition Facts label was introduced in 1993 following regulations promulgated under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. Other than a 2006 amendment that required the listing of "trans fat" amounts, the information required on these labels has not been updated. 

The changes proposed above are intended to more closely align Nutrition Fact labels with updated research, studies, surveys, and comments. For example, "Added Sugars" are to be added to the label because research indicates that they waste calories, replace nutrient-rich foods, and consumers often don't know the ratio of natural to added sugars. "Calories from Fat" are to be removed from the label because research indicates that it is the type--not the amount--of fat that matters most. Serving sizes, which are meant to be based on what people actually consume not what they should consume, are to be updated because they have not been updated to reflect modern trends in consumption. Potassium and Vitamin D are being added to the label because research indicates that these are nutrients of public-health significance, and certain population groups are not getting enough of them.

FDA currently seeks comments on the proposed updates, with the comments period closing on June 2, 2014. FDA has proposed that any final rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register and that industry will have two years to comply with the final requirements. Additional information, including links to the proposed rules and comment submission, is available here.