What to Know About the FDA's New Nutrition Facts Label

By: Sandra Walz, PhD, RD

The Food and Drug Administration finalized a new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods that will make informed food choices easier for consumers to make.  The new label features a modernized design, reflects current nutrition science information, and updates serving sizes and labeling requirements for certain package sizes. It will reach grocery store shelves by July 26, 2018 when manufacturers must comply with the label law. Smaller manufacturers will have an additional year to comply. Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of the new Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrition Facts LabelFeatures a Modernized Design

The type size for servings per container, serving size, and calories is increasing. Both serving size and calorie information will be in bold print to attract attention to the information.

Manufacturers will be including the actual gram amount for Vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

The footnote is changing to better explain the percent Daily Value.  It will read: “The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

Reflects Current Nutrition Science Information

Calories from fat are being removed. Research indicates the type of fat is more important than the amount. The label will continue to display total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat.

Vitamins A and C no longer will be listed because deficiencies in the population are rare. Vitamin D and potassium are nutrients individuals don’t always consume in sufficient amounts so they are being added to the label. Iron and calcium will remain.

Added sugars, which include sugars that are added during food processing or are packaged as such (e.g., sugar, syrups, corn sweetener, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey), will be listed as a subset of total sugars. This will help consumers distinguish between sugars that occur naturally in foods (e.g., raisins) and those that are processed and added to products. Consuming more than 10 percent of total daily calories from added sugar makes meeting both nutrient needs and calorie limits difficult. Using the DV 2,000-calorie reference diet, this equates to 200 calories and 50 grams of added sugar per day. Dietary patterns lower in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages are associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.

The definition for dietary fiber is being revised to include naturally occurring fibers and only those fibers added to foods that show a physiological health benefit.

Daily Values, which are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed (i.e., total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, total sugars, potassium, vitamin D, calcium, iron, potassium), are being updated based on newer scientific evidence from the Institute of Medicine and other key reports.

Updates Serving Sizes and Labeling Requirements

By law, serving sizes must reflect amounts of foods and beverages people typically consume, not how much they should consume; therefore, some serving sizes will be revised. As examples, a serving of soda is increasing from 8 ounces to 12 ounces and a serving of yogurt is decreasing from 8 ounces to 6 ounces.

Package size affects how much a person consumes. Packages that are between one and two servings (e.g., 15-ounce can of soup), and typically are consumed in one sitting, will be required to be labeled as one serving. Displayed calories and other nutrients will reflect the entire contents of the package. In doing so, consumers no longer will need to multiply the servings and percent DV to know how much they will be consuming.

For certain products that could be consumed in one or multiple sittings, manufactures will be required to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients per serving and per package. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda and a 3-ounce bag of snack food.

Summary

For more than 20 years, consumers have relied on the Nutrition Facts label to be a leading source of calorie and nutrient information for the foods they consume. The new Nutrition Facts label, containing realistic serving sizes and highlighted calorie amounts, updated nutrient information and DVs, and added sugars will provide consumers a reality check regarding the amount of calories and nutrients a serving or package contains. Public health professionals are in a position to assist consumers in understanding the new Nutrition Facts label and in making nutritionally informed food choices.

Sandra M. Walz, PhD, RD
Department of Nutrition

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

References

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Labeling Guide. http://www.fda.gov/FoodLabelingGuide. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20993. Last accessed on 6/28/2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20993. Last accessed on 6/28/2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Federal Register Notice: Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Label. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/27/2016-11867/food-labeling-revision-of-the-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20993. Last accessed on 6/28/2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Nutrition Fact Label Presentation PDF. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/UCM502019.pdf . U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20993. Last accessed on 6/28/2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. At a Glance: Highlights of the Final Nutrition Facts Label PDF. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/UCM502305.pdf. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20993. Last accessed on 6/28/2016.