Starting this year, food companies are required to use a new Nutrition Facts label. Here, learn all about the changes, and why they are important.
Major updates to the nutrition facts label
Of the many labels and claims we see all over food packaging, the one that teaches us the most about the food is the Nutrition Facts label. Implemented in 1994 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there have been little changes to the label over nearly 30 years of use.
But starting this year, you’ll be seeing some mandated big changes to the Nutrition Facts label. Large food companies (who make $10 million or more in annual sales) implemented the new label on January 1, 2020. Smaller food companies have until January 1, 2021 to make the transition.
The FDA updated Nutrition Facts label to “reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease” (1). It’s updated design and information will help consumers make healthy eating decisions more easily.
Changes you’ll see in the new nutrition facts label
Here are the major changes you will see in the new Nutrition Facts label.
More realistic serving sizes.
The new label lists serving sizes that more realistically reflect what people are eating today. Not only are the new portion sizes generally larger, they also make more sense. For example, companies might list the serving size as the entire container if you’re likely to consume it in one sitting, such as bags of chips or beverages.
Some foods may have two columns of information: one for the suggested serving size, and one for the entire package.
More prominent calories.
The calories per serving are bolder, bigger, and easier to spot on the new label, compared to the old one. The hope is that this will help consumers become more conscious of their eating choices.
“Calories from fat” removed
Updated research shows the type of fat consumed is more important for your health than total amount of fat consumed. Look for foods with high amounts of heart healthy unsaturated fats, and limited amounts of saturated fat. Foods low in saturated fat will provide 5% or less of the daily value for saturated fat.
Added sugars now included
The new label requires that added sugars be declared in both grams and % daily value. Added sugars include anything that is not naturally occurring in the food that is added during processing. Eating too much added sugar can negatively impact health. Current dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugar to less than 10% of daily intake, which is about 48 grams.
Required list of nutrients updated
Vitamin D and potassium are now required nutrients included on the new label. Vitamin D deficiency has become common in the United states, so this will help consumers identify food sources of vitamin D. While vitamin D is not found in a lot of foods, many foods are fortified with it, including cereals, orange juice, and dairy products.
Potassium is an essential mineral that helps regulate fluid balance, nerve signals, and muscular contractions in the body. Potassium is in a lot of plant foods, including avocado, bananas, and potatoes. Many Americans fall short of the recommended 3,500-4,700 mg of potassium a day.
Food companies are no longer required to list vitamins A and C on the new label, but may include them voluntarily.
Updated daily values
The daily values column on the Nutrition Facts label is useful for consumers to place the nutrition information in the context of one day of eating. The new label reflects updated daily values for sodium, fiber, and vitamin D.
Also, the footnote explaining what daily values means has been updated and is easier to understand. It now says “*The % Daily Value 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 new Nutrition Facts label is a positive step towards helping consumers make healthy decisions. The more informed we are, the better we can serve ourselves and reach health and nutrition goals.