FDA updates nutrition label requirements

Published on
May 20, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come forward with a series of updates to be applied to the Nutrition Facts label found on most food product packages sold in the United States, in an effort to help ensure that customers have the means to make the most informed decisions when it comes to what they consume.

The latest amendments will refine the existing Nutrition Facts label, which has been a food industry presence for nearly a quarter century. Most food manufacturers selling products within the United States will have to comply with the new labeling format by 26 July 2018.

“For more than 20 years, Americans have relied on the Nutrition Facts label as a leading source of information regarding calories, fat and other nutrients to help them understand more about the foods they eat in a day,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., in a prepared statement. “The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource so consumers can make more informed food choices – one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.”

“I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved Nutrition Facts label that will be on food products nationwide,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.”

The additions and edits to the new label will include the following:

  • An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings,” two important elements in making informed food choices.
  • Requirements for serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the last serving size requirements were published in 1993. By law, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, requires that serving sizes be based on what people actually eat.
  • Declaration of grams and a percent daily value ( percent DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. 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, and this is consistent with the scientific evidence supporting the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples include a pint of ice cream and a 3-ounce bag of chips. With dual-column labels available, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.
  • For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
  • Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the %DV that manufacturers include on the label.
  • Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount, in addition to the %DV. These are nutrients that some people are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. The percent DV for calcium and iron will continue to be required, along with the actual gram amount. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins are rare, but these nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.
  • “Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.

Minor changes will be applied to the Supplement Facts label found on dietary supplements to sync with the aforementioned alterations. These latest adjustments come after the FDA proposed two rules to update the label in March 2014, and then a supplemental proposed rule in July of last year.

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