We blogged way back in 2014 on the proposed Nutrition Facts Label and since that time there’s been quite a bit of debate on what should and shouldn’t be included on the new labels. Food companies are expected to change their labels so that it’ll be easier to read, understand and use for you, the consumer. Announced late last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the first notable update of the Nutrition Facts Label since its initial debut some 20 years ago. It’s an effort that many nutritionists and others in the public health space have been waiting to see, as they consider it one more step in taking action to help curb the obesity epidemic.
By 2018, food companies will be required to comply with using these new labels. Above to the left is the current label and on the right is the new label. The proposed label from 2014 is nearly identical with the actual label that will soon take effect.
At first glance, you’ll see the layout has changed dramatically. Calories are more prominent, as are the servings per food and serving size. What’s reason for these changes? Well, calories are still the most important factor in weight management and, when they’re glaring at you, they’re hard to ignore! Servings are also more emphasized to better reflect how much you eat at one time.
Other changes reflected on the new label are based on updated nutrition science and are in alignment with the 2015-202 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
For example, did you notice the line on added sugars? That’s the most noteworthy add to the label. Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 13 percent of our total calories come from added sugars. These new labels aim to alert us of our added sugar intake, which should only make up 5 to 15 percent of calories. While it’ll be years or even decades before we see if there’s a decrease in the amounts of added sugars we consume, this is the first sweeping step in bringing awareness to how much sugar is in our foods.
Other builds from the Dietary Guidelines, such as the additions of Vitamin D and potassium, are meant to support the needs of Americans who aren’t getting enough of these nutrients, which can help minimize the risk of chronic diseases.
The new labels weren’t devised in a windowless room at the FDA headquarters. Like most changes, the FDA solicited comments from the food industry, public health professionals and the general public. As a communications professional with over 15 years of experience working with food clients and regulatory bodies, these changes will be an excellent way to highlight a product’s nutritional contribution to one’s diet.
Overall, with more than half of the adult population in America considered to be overweight or obese (68.8%), it will be some time before know whether the new labels will make a lasting, positive effect on how we as a nation look at food and its effects on our health. As more Americans become more food literate, and with the current climate of food transparency, this is an ideal environment to build upon the educational efforts around health and nutrition.