Marcos Ramirez, Dietetic Intern, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Over a year ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally announced the Nutrition Facts Label’s first major overhaul since 1993. Originally, FDA declared most food manufacturers would have to comply with the redesign label by July 2018, but those who sell less than $ 10 million products a year have until 2019 to get with the new program.
The proposed change is a breakthrough for nutrition advocates, who find the old label provides limited help for customers trying to abide by the U.S Dietary Guidelines. For example, the recommendation for added sugars is 10% of total calories consumed. Added sugars are not represented on the old Nutrition Facts label. It is difficult for consumers to monitor their added sugar intake if it is not shown on the nutrition facts label.
Some useful changes to the Nutrition Facts Label:
Added sugars are now clearly labeled
- Added sugars are not naturally occurring in foods. They are addedduring processing to make foods taste better but provide no nutritional value to food. Studies suggest a diet high in added sugars is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental cavities.
- The new label lists the grams of added sugar and shows the percentage of calories those added sugars make up based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
- It is worth noting that recommendations for added sugars vary among organizations. The U.S Dietary Guideline recommends about 50 grams of added sugar per day, while American Heart Association suggests that women consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar and men limit consumption to 36 grams. The World Health Organization recommends trying to limit consumption of added sugar to 5 percent of total calories per day.
Calories from fat has been removed
- Another noticeable change to the label is the deletion of “calories from fat”. The current scientific research on the calories from fat issue shows that it’s more important to eat certain types of healthy fat than to simply restrict fat as a nutrient. Decreasing consumption of good fats like Omega 3s may have negative health effects.
Serving Sizes are better represented
- There is also a long-needed recalibration of serving sizes for certain foods. This change will more accurately reflect the amount of food Americans actually eat and drink. For instance, a 20-ounce beverage will now be labeled as a single serving, because most people who buy 20-ounce beverage consume it within the same day. Ice cream servings will also change from a half-cup to two-thirds of a cup, and the Nutrition Facts will change to align with this larger amount. Overall, the serving size will more closely reflect the actual amount that people typically eat.
- Some listed vitamins are getting replaced for vitamins we need more=
- The FDA will no longer require food companies to list the amounts of Vitamin A and C in products, because research shows Americans aren’t deficient in these nutrients. We do, however, need more vitamin D and potassium, so those nutrients are being added to the label.
Unfortunately, we will not see these useful changes soon. The original implementation date for the new labels has been changed. Denying consumers this vital information may create a confusing marketplace as many companies have gone ahead with the new Nutrition Facts label implementation. The FDA, which published the final rule for Nutrition Facts was updated in May 2016, and has now delayed the deadline to use the new label from July 2018 to January 2019 for large companies. It has further delayed compliance for small companies from July 2019 to January 2020.