The Nutrition Facts Label for packaged foods and beverages is getting a makeover.  The current label has remained unchanged for the past 20, years with the exception of the addition of “trans fat” in 2006.  In March 2014, the FDA issued two proposed rules followed by a supplemental proposed rule in July 2015.  

The FDA is poised to finalize the proposed rules to the Nutritional Facts Label found on most food packages in the United States as early as March 2016. When the proposed rules are adopted, they will include a greater understanding of nutrition science, updated serving size requirements to reflect what consumers actually eat, new labelling requirements for certain package sizes, and a new easy- to-read design.   

One of the key changes of the FDA’s proposal that will have a significant impact on the industry and consumers is to require information about “added sugars.” It is widely understood that added sugars supply no additional nutrient value and are referred to as “empty calories.”  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing the amount of added sugars consumed.  Evidence shows that eating these “empty calories” can cause the consumption of less nutrient-rich foods and an overall increase caloric intake. This proposal would require the declaration of “Added Sugars” which will appear indented under “Sugars”, helping consumers understand how much sugar is naturally occurring and how much has been added to the product.  The percent daily value therefore would be based on the recommendation that the daily intake of calories from added sugars not exceed 10 percent of total calories.  The industry may have to adjust formulations in response to how the public views products with what seems to be “high” added sugar amounts on the proposed label.  

Another change proposed is the update of daily values (DV) for sodium and dietary fiber.  The daily value for sodium would decrease from 2400mg to 2300mg per day, with an option to lower it 1500mg per day depending on comments from credible sources within the food and medical industries.   In order to include those fibers that have a physiological effect that is beneficial to human health, the FDA is proposing increasing the Daily Recommended Value (DRV) of fiber to 28g from 25g.  

Nutrients of public health significance currently include calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron.  Calcium and iron will remain; vitamin D and potassium are being proposed to be added to the list of required nutrients.  Vitamin D contributes to bone health, and potassium intake is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Consumption of both nutrients are low among some population groups.  Since deficiencies in both vitamins A and C are not common in the general population, these vitamins would become voluntary declared nutrients.

The proposed label would remove “Calories from Fat” because research shows that the type of fat is more important than the amount.  Accordingly, “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” would continue to be required as these classifications give the consumer a more comprehensive understanding of the nutrition of the products.  

The policy that serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not what they “should” be eating coupled with Americans consuming larger quantities of food and beverages has compelled the FDA to make some adjustments.  The proposal states that foods and drinks typically eaten in one sitting are to be labelled as a single serving, as well as calorie and nutrient information are to be declared for the entire package.  A “dual column” label has been introduced to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” for containers that are larger and could be consumed in one or more sittings.  The reasoning behind this is that it would allow the consumer to better understand the calories and nutrients that are consumed when eating or drinking an entire package at one time.  While there has been a move towards lower calorie/fat/cholesterol/sodium products across the food industry as a whole, this visual of the amount actually consumed could push the industry towards lowering these nutrient amounts further.

The updated, refreshed design would make calories and serving size more prominent, shift the percent daily value to the left of the label, and update the footnote to more clearly explain the meaning of the percent daily value.  The proposed footnote would state:  “The percent 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 FDA is proposing a uniform compliance date of January 2018 for all food labelling regulations that are issued between January 2015 and December 2016.  The food industry will also be expected to adopt the new label by January 2018.  The FDA based these changes on input from members of the food industry, medical community, and consumer surveys.  As when trans fat was added in 2006, the industry will step up to the challenge and adapt to these proposed changes by sourcing new ingredients, adjusting formulations, and creating new processing technology to meet the needs of the consumer.  



2016-01-28 19:56:24