A new nutrition label was proposed by the FDA on February 27, 2014. The updated Nutrition Facts labels is for commercially packaged foods and beverages. The goal of the new nutrition label is to help consumers make more informed food choices to support a healthy diet focusing more attention on serving sizes, calories and added sugars—all of which could help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems in the U.S.
The proposed updates were developed using information from national survey data, 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), as well as extensive input from a wide range of stakeholders in the food industry.
Proposed changes to the new nutrition label include:
Adding information about the amount of “added sugars.”
- Why? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend reducing the intake of calories from added sugars because a high intake can decrease the intake of nutrient-rich foods in the diet. A recent IOM report on macronutrients stated that “although added sugars are not chemically different from naturally occurring sugars, many foods and beverages that are major sources of added sugars have lower micronutrient densities compared to foods and beverages that are major sources of naturally occurring sugars.”
Updating serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat.
- Why? The thought is that serving sizes should be based on what people actually eat, not on what they “should” be eating. These amounts have generally increased since food labels were first introduced. Recent food consumption data show that about 27 of the 158 (about 17%) of the current RACCs (Recommended Amount Customarily Consumed or serving size) should be changed for different food categories. Manufacturers would potentially have to adjust serving sizes based on these proposed changes to the RACCs. FDA is also proposing to add 25 new RACCs, many at the request of various industry groups.
Adding Potassium and Vitamin D to labels, instead of Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
- Why? Potassium and D are nutrients that some in the U.S. population may not be getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure.
Requiring “dual column” labels with calorie and nutrition information “per serving” and “per package” if a package contains at least 200% of the RACC and less than or equal to 400% of the RACC.
- Why? Some food products previously labeled as more than one serving are typically consumed in one sitting. This would give people a better idea of the amount of calories they consume in a day. Examples include a 24-ounce can of soda, a 10.5-ounce frozen entrée, a 19-ounce can of soup, and a pint of ice cream. For packages containing more than 400% of the RACC, dual column labeling would not be required.
Revisions to Daily Values for certain nutrients: Sodium, Dietary Fiber, Calcium and Vitamin D.
- Why? The revisions would reflect new recommendations of what people should be consuming on a daily basis. The FDA also proposes changing the units used to declare Vitamins A, E and D from “international units,” or “I.U.” to metric measures—milligrams or micrograms and include the absolute amounts on labels in addition to the %DV.
Removal of “Calories from Fat.”
- Why? Labels would continue to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label but “Calories from Fat” would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
Changing “Amount per Serving” to “Amount per ___”, with the blank filled in with the serving size in common household measures, i.e., “Amount per 1 cup.”
- Why? This would give people a better idea of what a serving size looks like and how many calories they are actually consuming.
Changing the format to emphasize certain elements: calories, serving sizes and percent daily value.
- Why? These are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.
Removing the existing footnote that describes the Daily Values for 2,000 and 2,500 calories to provide more space to better explain the percent dietary value.
- Why? This part of the nutrition label is often misunderstood by consumers, and FDA is conducting an experimental study to help determine how the footnote can help consumers to better understand the %DV.
Current label vs. proposed new nutrition label
The FDA has provided a side by side comparison of the current label and the new nutrition label:
This will be the first major change in labeling since 2006, when “trans fats” were added to the Nutrition Facts label leading to a reduction in the use of partially hydrogenated oils, a major source of trans fats, in many products. The FDA is accepting public comment on these proposed changes for 90 days or until June 2, 2014. After that, a final rule will be issued based on the feedback received. FDA officials said they hope to complete the process this year. Once the final rule is made, manufacturers will have two years to implement the changes to their labels. Until the proposed changes are finalized and the new labeling requirements become effective, labels should be made to comply with the current labeling provisions.
So what do we think about the new nutrition label at On The Menu? We like the pronounced Calories and Servings Per Container, addition of Added Sugars, and using household measurements to describe serving sizes.
You can give your comments about the proposed new nutrition label here: