New nutritional labels coming to a store near you!

When it comes to the food we eat, labels matter. Whether a menu at a restaurant or a label on a package, the information we see can influence what we choose to eat or not eat. Unfortunately, a lot of the information we’re given is hard to understand or outdated. The current nutritional label design is over 20 years old!

Luckily, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the support of First Lady Michelle Obama, recently announced a few big changes to the Nutritional Facts Panel on packaged foods and beverages that’ll make it easier for everyone to understand. After all, nutritional information helps consumers make better choices, and people who pay closer attention to these labels tend to purchase healthier items.

The new labels keep the traditional look, but have been changed to emphasize certain information, like calories and percent daily value—information that can help address current public health problems like obesity and heart disease. We’ve highlighted some of the big changes below:

Changes to label design

  • Bigger font sizes for “calories”, “servings per container,” and “serving size” information.
  • Better explanation of what Percent Daily Value means in the footnotes.

Changes to labeling requirements for certain package sizes

  • Serving sizes will reflect the amount people typically eat in one sitting. For example, serving sizes for ice cream have increased from ½ cup to 2/3 cup.
  • Packages that are in between one to two serving sizes will be required to indicate the total calories and nutrients for the entire package, not just one serving. This will help those who consume the package in one serving better understand what they’re eating.
  • Labels for products that are likely consumed in one sitting, but are more than one or two servings, will now have a second column that has the nutritional information for the entire package.

Changes to nutritional information

  • “Added sugars” will now be included on labels.
  • Daily values for sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D will reflect updated dietary guidelines.
  • Manufacturers must now include the actual amount, not just percent Daily Value, of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

So when can you expect these changes? The FDA has required that most manufacturers use the new label by July 2018, though smaller manufacturers have an extra year. You might see changes even earlier in restaurants and other stores though. A couple months ago, the FDA released new guidelines stating that food chains with 20 or more locations must post calorie counts on their menu options, and make other information available upon request.

The FDA’s announcement about package and menu labeling is a big win for public health and one important step toward fighting childhood and adult obesity in the US. But let’s not forget—some of the best foods are the ones that don’t require a nutritional label, so make sure to keep your diet balanced with fruits and veggies too!

 

Photo courtesy of the FDA; label meant to be representations of changes, not reflective of actual changes.

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