I’ve written about Nutrition Labels several times in the past. You can read those posts at the links below.
The purpose of this new post is to tell you about some changes that are now officially coming the label that I love to hate. For more than twenty years now 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. But I’ve quizzed people about what’s found on a food label and most people are confused as to what they are reading. Will the new label help?? I have my doubts.
The new Nutrition Facts label will include the following:
- An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings. – Most people never look at these, so will enlarging the font make a difference? You might be surprised when you see that the serving size for cereal is 1/2 a cup or that 2 cookies are a serving. Maybe this will draw attention to that. Also, I don’t think that looking at calories is important. Calorie counting is not the best way to lose weight and the amount of calories you consume in a day is no indication of your overall health. A calorie is NOT just a calorie…despite what you’ve heard.
- 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 (but as I pointed out, it’s not currently accurate). I’ll be interested to see what changes are made. I have a feeling that food companies will be fighting this one tooth and nail.
- Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” – The idea is that this will help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. I really like change. Currently, if you eat any packaged products that contain fruit, the label simply states sugar and this doesn’t tell you the whole story because the sugar found naturally in the fruit is lumped in with the sugar added. Added sugars are what you would want to stay away from. Manufacturers add sugar to 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets under more than 61 different names. My question is, why is there a % Daily Value for added sugar? You shouldn’t be consuming it at all!
- “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. – With dual-column labels available, people will be able to see how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time…which most people do!
- For packages that are between one and two servings, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving – This is because people typically consume it in one sitting (like a 20 ounce soda).
- Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D – These will now be consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To me, this is meaningless. Everyone is different and not everyone needs the same amount of minerals and nutrients. It all depends on their exercise routine, age, sex and general health.
- Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount, in addition to the %DV. – The FDA has determined that these are nutrients that some people are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. The %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 (according to the FDA), but these nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.
- “Calories from Fat” will be removed – This is being done because the FDA has finally recognized that the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.
- An abbreviated footnote to better explain the %DV. – I still think that stating that everyone needs to consume 2000 calories a day is ridiculous. Calorie consumption varies so much depending on age, sex, height, exercise level, etc.
Some of these changes were proposed when I wrote the post back in 2009 linked at the top, but not everything they proposed then was implemented. These Nutrition Facts label regulations apply to packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Food manufacturer’s will have until July 2018 to make the changes to the label.
When I look at labels, I go straight to the bottom. What really matters are the actual ingredients, quality of ingredients, how ingredients are listed (most dense first, etc.). If there are a bunch of ingredients that I don’t recognize, I’m not eating it or feeding it to my family!
Other changes I would like to see:
- List of what ingredients are GMO (Genetically Modified)
- The percentages on ingredients. They are listed in order from highest amount to lowest, but you still have no idea if the first ingredient makes up 50% of the product of 15%.
- More nutrients listed. I’d like to see magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, KW, iodine, etc. I care about getting these in my diet and most people should.
- Change from grams to a unit of measurement that people can relate to. Grams is a measurement of weight. If the label listed teaspoons instead, it would be more relevant. By the way…you can put 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon.
You can get more details on the label changes at the FDA website
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