It’s hard to imagine grocery shopping without a Nutrition Facts label. Any health-conscious shopper would agree that part of the grocery shopping process is grabbing a product from the shelf, flipping it around, and taking a look at some combination of the calories, fat content and ingredients. This nutrition label we have come to know and depend on is getting an upgrade with new regulations and improved standards of daily intake recommendations.
The History of the Nutrition Label
Nutrition labels were introduced by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1973 but weren’t legally required until 1993. Before that, there was little to no information available to consumers about the packaged food they were buying and eating. The information included on the packaging was generally limited to calories and sodium content.
There was also no definitive standard for the nutrition label. Some food manufacturers voluntarily provided select nutrition information, while for others, it was mandatory. If nutrition claims were being made on packaging or nutrients were added to a food product (ie: fortified), then a label was mandatory. This presented a very real challenge for those with special dietary needs and food allergies, or for anyone wanting to make informed, healthy decisions about their diet.
Get The Facts: Then and Now
Up until the FDA acknowledged the importance of regulating nutrition labeling, packaged food wasn’t as popular as it is today because people largely prepared their own meals from fresh ingredients. So it makes sense that with the increasing availability and popularity of packaged foods over the past few decades, along with greater consumer awareness around healthy eating habits, the FDA’s nutrition labels would evolve with the times. That said, this upcoming change to the nutrition label is the first in 20 years, except for the addition of trans fats information in 2006.
As of the January 1, 2020 compliance deadline for large food manufacturers, the U.S. Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts requirements will change largely due to recent scientific findings that link nutrition to health, more specifically, diet to chronic disease. These diseases include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers, all of which have rising rates mostly due to lifestyle choices like poor eating habits and drops in physical activity. In fact, according to Health.gov, approximately half of all American adults have some form of chronic disease with nearly two-thirds overweight or obese.
The FDA’s nutrition label is a small but mighty tool for educating consumers and empowering better eating habits. Here’s a quick primer on what to expect from the new label:
Changes To Look For On The New Nutrition Label
A Refreshed Design
Some of the changes are purely aesthetic to make it easier to see important information on packaged foods’ nutrition facts labels. These new design requirements include the number of servings per package to be a larger, bolder type and the serving size declaration in a larger type now located below the number of servings. Number of calories is also bigger and easier to quickly locate.
The FDA claims, “Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar, and this is consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”So, a new line on “added sugars” in the nutrients section of the food nutrition label has been added to help increase awareness about sugar added to food during the manufacturing process. The intention behind this new addition is to promote greater awareness about sugar content, which is definitely a good thing.
So the big question to this label addition is – which sweeteners are considered to be added sugar, anyway? Well, table sugar for one. Then there’s honey (our preferred natural sweetener), maple syrup, and agave. Honey is our go-to sweetener because of its moderate glycemic index and loads of health and healing benefits. Not to mention it’s delicious!
You can read more about the health benefits of honey, including its powerful antioxidants here: Six Reasons to Harness the Power of Honey.
FDA changes to serving information are based on the following:
- Serving sizes have to be based on the amounts of food and beverages that people eat, not what they should be eating.
- For packages between one and two servings (think: individual size soda bottle or regular can of soup), calories and other nutrients must be labeled as one serving. That’s because most people consume it all at once.
- “Dual column” labels indicate the number of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package”/“per unit” basis for those products that are bigger than a single serving but could be consumed at one time or over multiple sittings. This allows people to easily understand the number of calories and nutrients they will consume if they eat or drink the entire package in one fell swoop.
Updated Vitamin and Mineral Guidelines
The FDA’s list of required nutrients is also being revised to include Vitamin D, which is important for healthy bones and teeth. It also helps regulate insulin and supports the immune system (to name a few benefits). Potassium, a mineral vital in lowering blood pressure, preventing stroke, and preserving bone density will be included. Calcium (ditto to healthy bones and heart!) and iron (blood health and immune-boosting properties) are still a label must-have, while Vitamins A and C are now voluntary on the label.
Say goodbye to “Calories from Fat” on the new nutrition label! That’s because the FDA believes (and research backs this up), the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat being consumed. As for “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat,” they’re sticking around.
Updated Daily Values
Due to recent findings from a variety of scientific reports, including from the Institute of Medicine, fat, vitamin D, sodium, and dietary fiber Daily Values have been updated.
The FDA cut back on the information included in the Daily Values (DV) footnote on the label and moved it from the center of the label to the bottom. The new footnote also reflects a more accurate and clear explanation of what Daily Value means. Basically, DV looks at the average person’s total daily diet in the U.S. and recommends daily amounts of certain nutrients not to exceed.
- Current footnote (located directly below nutrient information): Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
- New footnote (located at bottom of the label): 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.
The next time you’re at the supermarket, take a gander at the nutrition label on any packaged food. It’s a great way to make sure you’re getting enough of your recommended daily allowances AND avoiding getting too much of a good thing.
Perfect Snacks takes your health seriously. That’s why we’re on top of updating our food labels to meet the latest FDA requirements and filling you in on the latest nutrition news.