FDA's Revamped Nutrition Labels Highlight Calories and Sugar

In its first big makeover in about 20 years, the ubiquitous Nutrition Facts Label better reflects how people really eat

FDA's Revamped Nutrition Labels Highlight Calories and Sugar
May 20, 2016

Twenty years after they were first introduced, Nutrition Labels have gotten a makeover that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says better reflects how people eat and how they can make more-informed food choices.

The changes, which were sometimes controversial, highlight calories, serving sizes, and added sugars. The changes, however, won't be immediate. Food manufacturers have until July 2018 to make the changes with smaller companies given an additional year to comply.

While the new label looks similar to the old one, there are some key changes that are meant to help shoppers make better food choices that could make a dent in the obesity epidemic.

One of the boldest changes is how the calorie information is presented. The number of total calories is larger and in bold type, along with easier-to-read serving sizes so shoppers are well aware of how many calories are in each serving.

Serving sizes are also required to more closely reflect the amounts of food that people eat or drink. We're all familiar with this, like the bottle of soda that is actually two servings instead of one, but everyone drinks the whole bottle.

For those foods that are intended for multiple servings but could be eaten in one – we're looking at you, pint of ice cream – labels will include two columns that break down the calories and other nutrients per serving and per container.

The label also includes updated daily values (%DV) for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D that reflect changes in how much of these nutrients should be consumed. Vitamin D, along with potassium, will also include the actual gram amount since these are the nutrients that some people aren't getting enough of. Vitamin A and C are no longer required on the label since deficiencies in these vitamins are rare.

One of the biggest and most controversial changes to the new Nutrition Labels is the inclusion of grams and daily values for added sugars. On the current labels, only the total grams of sugar is listed; a percent daily value is noticeably missing. The new label doesn't include a percent for total sugars, but it does include the amount of added sugars, which are sugars that aren't naturally occurring in food. Think, high fructose corn syrup versus the sugar naturally found in strawberries.

"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," writes the FDA.

For more information about the new Nutrition Labels, visit the FDA's website.