For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration has announced proposed updates to the Nutrition Facts label “as part of an effort to help families make healthier choices.”
The current label has not changed much since it was launched in 1993, but the FDA proposed some major tweaks, which it announced at a White House press conference with First Lady Michelle Obama, who called the updates “a big deal.”
“The updated information is consistent with current data on the associations between nutrients and chronic diseases or health-related conditions, reflects current public health conditions in the United States, and corresponds to new information on consumer behavior and consumption patterns,” the FDA said in its proposal. The agency emphasized that the primary goal of the changes is to “expand and highlight the information [consumers] most need when making food choices.”
Specific elements will now be emphasized, including calorie content and the servings per container which would be set forth in larger, bolder type. Serving sizes should “reflect the amounts people currently eat” based on current consumption data, the FDA said, rather than amounts based on consumption data from the 1970s and 80s. In an example provided by the agency, the serving size for ice cream would be bumped from half a cup to a cup, in turn increasing the calories per serving from 200 to 400.
Other proposals: Products that are typically consumed in a single sitting (a 15-ounce can of soup, for example, or a 20-ounce soda) must include information for a single serving instead of breaking down information for multiple servings on the label. New data points will be added for potassium and vitamin D, which are not currently listed, while other items – like calories from fat, and vitamins A and C – will be removed.
The “sugars” column will change to read “added sugars” to exclude naturally occurring sugar in the product. And the FDA said it plans to update the daily values for certain nutrients. Sodium, for example, will be revised from 2,400 mg per day to 2,300 mg.
The proposed changes are open for a 90-day public comment period.
To read the proposed changes, click here.
Why it matters: The label changes will require new packaging and potentially new formatting for some products, all of which will come at a cost to the food industry. An updated label could also impact a company’s marketing and advertising claims, particularly with respect to the change in serving sizes (a larger serving size could mean more calories, for example) or the daily values for nutrients. The estimated cost to the industry is $2 billion according to the FDA, which also posited a $20-$30 billion public health benefit over time.