Last month the Food and Drug Administration announced a recommendation for new food labels for all packaged food items in the U.S. The nutritional guidelines are undergoing final review but are expected to go into effect over the next few years. All packages require updating by July 2018.
What is changing about standard food labels?
Food labels will follow generally the same format but the information on them will change somewhat. Here’s what you can expect:
Calories: The font listing the total number of calories per serving will be larger and it is no longer mandatory to include “calories from fat.”
Servings: Serving sizes are becoming more reasonable for what the average person would eat at one time. For instance, a bottle of soda or a can of soup would be considered one serving, whereas old labels list it as two servings. Larger packages with multiple servings will show nutritional information for one serving as well as the entire package in a two-column format. The serving size section will also appear in a larger font.
Sugars: Packages will now be required to list the amount of added sugar to food products. This will allow consumers to differentiate added sugars from natural sugars.
Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin D, potassium, iron and calcium will now be required categories including showing the quantity and the percent of recommended daily value. Vitamin A and Vitamin C will be optional.
Daily Recommended Values: These are updated to reflect current scientific research regarding the amount of specific nutrients we need daily.
*Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates (including fiber and sugars) and protein will all continue to be listed on new food labels.
Why are food labels changing?
Current food labels were instituted in 1994 but much research has been done about nutrition and the human body in the past 22 years. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration believes the guidelines on how nutrition is reported on food packages should be updated.
Some of the changes are for the sake of clarity, such as larger fonts and more accurate serving sizes. Other changes are based on what information experts believe we should be concerned about in our diet, like added sugars versus natural sugars. And yet other changes reflect research indicating the importance of certain nutrients like potassium and Vitamin D that contribute to healthy development, sustained health and lowered risk of chronic disease.
Preventative health is intimately related to what we eat. New food labels are an effort to better inform consumers about food and help people make better nutritional choices.