A lot has changed since the previous U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for the Nutrition Facts Label for packaged foods were published in 1993, including the serving sizes people consume, obesity rates and the research available linking poor diet and exercise habits to numerous chronic diseases.
Countless health care providers were excited that the Nutrition Facts Label was getting a much needed revamp. Those changes were scheduled to go into effect on July 26, 2018; in fact, you may already see them on packages in your grocery store right now! However, in October 2017, the FDA decided to delay the compliance date for packaged food labels to January 1, 2020 for all manufacturers with $10 million in annual sales, citing feedback from manufacturers and consumer groups as the reason for the delay.
Nevertheless, changes are on the way—and with good reason. The redesign of the labels reflects scientific nutrition and public health research regarding the link between diet and chronic disease, such as obesity and heart disease, and are intended to help consumers make more informed food choices. The changes are supported by the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine.
Highlights of the new label include:
- Increasing the size of the calories and servings, making them more prominent to help draw consumer’s attention.
- Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron and Potassium contents are listed, as they were deemed to be nutrients of concern in recent national food consumption surveys.
- Added sugars are now required in the label. These are sugars not naturally occurring in the food, but have been added during processing. It is recommended that less than 10 percent of our calories should come from added sugar each day.
- Listing total, saturated and trans fat in addition to sodium content because diets high in these items can increase risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Listing dietary fiber. It is recommended to include 24 grams of fiber each day in our diet.
- Serving sizes are being updated to better reflect what people typically consume versus what they should be eating. This is not intended to recommend that you eat this much, but it is more consistent with actual portions.
Imported foods also will be required to comply with the new Nutrition Fact Label guidelines.
Registered dietitian Barb Walsh is the community nutrition educator in the Tevis Center for Wellness.