This post was written by John Feldman and Jillian Riley.
Today FDA announced long-awaited changes to the iconic Nutrition Facts label for foods. According to FDA, the goal of the proposed changes is not to tell consumers what they should or should not be eating, but to expand and highlight the information consumers need most to make a well-informed food choice.
Calories and Serving Size
The most notable changes involve the display. The proposed label emphasizes through font size and bold type the number of calories per serving size and the number of servings per container. In order to better capture how average Americans eat, FDA is also proposing changes to how serving sizes themselves are calculated. Gone will be the days where a pint of ice cream is four serving sizes; now FDA says it is two. FDA stresses that these proposed changes are based on current scientific thinking in the area of nutrition science and based on the most recent public health and nutrition surveys. The current nutrition Facts Panel, which has been in use for 20 years, relied on consumer consumption data from the 70s and 80s. American eating patterns have changed and FDA hopes these new labels will better reflect current consumption patterns.
Another major change involves how the Nutrition Facts panel displays the amount of sugar contained in a food. The current label lists just “Sugars” which can refer to both naturally occurring and sugars added during the production process, the propose label requires “Added Sugars” to be a separately listed category which would include only those sugars added to the food during production.
Nutrient Content and % Daily Value Calculations
Other changes include updates for to how to calculate the Percent Daily Value for nutrients such as fiber and calcium, requirements to list nutrients such as Potassium and Vitamin D, and no longer requiring the label to include Vitamins A and C.
From a public health standpoint, the proposed changes raise three important and related questions:
- Will consumers read and understand the new information provided on the Nutrition Facts panel?
- Will the updated and highlighted information lead consumers to make better food choices?
- Will those better food choices lead to better health outcomes?
The new Nutrition Facts panel has implications in the advertising world as well. Claims about nutrition content of foods are based on what the manufacturer is permitted to say in the Nutrition Facts panel. Changes to the panel necessarily mean changes to how food companies are permitted to advertise their products. We will certainly see a new wave of advertisers capitalize on foods with “No Added Sugars” but what other patterns should we expect?
FDA will be accepting comments for 90 days.