The many healthful changes approved for our nutrition facts label on May 20, 2016 won’t hit grocery store shelves for another two years. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given manufacturers until July 26, 2018 to update their food labels. It gifted companies that make less than $10 million in annual food sales a bit longer, or until 2019 to comply. Regardless, this is a huge and much needed overhaul of the label given the fact that it was introduced more than 20 years ago. A lot has changed in the past two decades! Our knowledge of how food nutrients improve or harm our health has increased but unfortunately so too has the average American portion size.
- The calories will be in a larger print making them stand out and easier to read, especially for those of us with diminishing eyesight.
- The grams of added sugar by the manufacturer will be listed. Hopefully the confusion between the sugar that grows naturally inside a plant versus the sugar granules scooped into a recipe will be clarified.
- The percent daily value of added sugars will be listed. This is based on 50 grams, or about 12 teaspoons of sugar and reflects the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The goal is to consume less that 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars and is based on a 2000 calorie diet. Under the new label guidelines, a 20 ounce bottle of soda will say that it contains 130% (gulp) DV for added sugars.
- The serving size will be more reflective of what people actually eat. This hasn’t changed since 1993! For example a serving size of:
- ice cream will be 2/3 cup, not 1/2 cup.
- muffins, bagels and toaster pastries will be 4 ounces, not 2 ounces.
- soft drinks will be 12 ounces, not 8 ounces. I’m sure some of you are snickering, thinking that many of us have already out grown and over portioned some of these new measures.
- “Dual column” labels will indicate both “per serving” and “per package” for multi-serving food products that we might eat in one or multiple sittings. For example, a pint of ice cream or a 3 ounce bag of potato chips will list both “per serving” and “per package” so you can chose if you really want to eat your way to the bottom of the container.
- The daily values for sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D were updated to reflect the changes made in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Vitamin A and C are now voluntarily included because most of us get plenty of these.
- Fiber and potassium will have a gram amount and daily value because many of us don’t get enough of them. Both play extremely important roles in preventing and managing disease including weight, blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
- Total grams of fat, saturated fat and transfat will remain on the label, but the percentage of calories from fat will be removed. We now know that saturated and trans fat increase our risk of heart disease, while polyunsaturated fats and oils can reduce that risk. Currently people shy away from foods that have a high percentage of fat on the label, even though they might be healthful fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil. The new change will help to eliminate this confusing message.
- An abbreviated footnote will better describe what the %DV means.
- The Daily Value for sodium will be lowered slightly from 2,400 mg per day to 2,300 mg per day and again will now be consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Who’s Celebrating the Change?
Registered Dietitians, your family doctor and you should be celebrating!
The FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D. said “The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource so consumers can make more informed food choices – one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.”
Yes, it provides all of us with better information to make healthier food and beverage choices. It also puts pressure on manufacturers over the next couple of years to improve their recipes by changing ingredients where sugar is high, fiber is low and the portions were created for papa and not momma or baby bear. Americans owe a round of applause to Michelle Obama for her efforts in helping to push the new food label through the approval process. Positive food policy change will indeed be one of her greatest legacies during the Obama Administration. As a mom, as a family and as a Registered Dietitian, I am thankful for her work and am certain that her healthy food efforts will continue for many years to come. Sometimes its nice to have an extra pair of hands in the kitchen!