If the Nutrition Facts Panel is a place you’re accustomed to checking when making food choices, then watch out for some significant changes to nutrition labels in the near future, as companies have until Summer 2018 to adopt the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new labeling standards. The panel has been the same since 1993, so what’s the reasoning behind the changes? Lori Zanini, spokesperson for the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition, stated that the new panel represents a focus on portion size, added ingredients, and the current types and amounts of micronutrients that people should be focusing on [1].

Nutrition Label Comparison: Old v. New

Perhaps the biggest amendment to the Nutrition Facts Panel is the “Added Sugars” column, in which manufacturers will be required to identify the amount of extra sugar that has been added to a product as opposed to simply lumping it in with sugars that are naturally occurring in foods like fruit and dairy. Moreover, the recommended quantities reflect the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines of no more than 10% of one’s daily calories should come from added sugars. Other new changes to the panel are the replacement of vitamins A and C with vitamin D and potassium, as well as updated daily values for some nutrients. For example, the suggested amount of sodium has decreased while the suggested amount of fiber has increased. The FDA also chose to eliminate the “Calories from Fat” declaration on the new label. Their decision reflects emerging research on the greater importance of the kinds of fats consumed as opposed to simply the total fat consumed on an individual’s health [2]. The final revision to the label is a change in serving sizes. Since the serving sizes of the old nutrition panel were devised several decades ago, they are hardly representative of today’s patterns of eating. The new serving sizes will reflect the quantity of food that people realistically eat in one sitting and not the quantity that they should be eating. For instance, have you ever wondered how one pint of ice cream could possibly contain four servings after devouring almost half of the pint? You’re not alone because so has most of America, which is why there will now be considered three servings in a pint of ice cream. The new serving of a bottled beverage will soon reflect the fact that people typically drink an entire bottle regardless of whether it’s 8 ounces or 20 ounces, therefore the calories and nutrition facts will now be labeled as a single serving for both sizes [3].

When the updated Nutrition Facts Panel hits shelves, how will it help you to purchase healthful foods? The new labels should take the guessing game out of serving sizes, and being aware of the total calories in a bag of chips or pretzels might deter you from mindlessly munching through the entire bag. The addition of potassium and vitamin D to the label should bring your attention to the importance of these micronutrients for your cardiovascular and bone health respectively. Lastly, pay close attention to “added sugars.” Consuming excess sugar in the form of added sugars makes it difficult to remain within the healthy caloric intake range, and it also decreases your likelihood of consuming enough dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals [3]. The revised labels represent an essential part of being an informed consumer, however often times the healthiest foods in the grocery store don’t need a Nutrition Facts Panel. What am I referring to? Broccoli, spinach, apples, carrots, avocados, and the rest of the fruits and vegetables that you find in the produce section at the store. Enjoy these foods without worrying about added sugars, strict serving sizes, and whether or not they contain beneficial vitamins and minerals!

Written by Katie, University of Washington intern

Resources:

[1] Dunavan, Jennifer. “Welcome the New Food Label.” Fremont Tribune. Fremont Tribune, 15 Aug. 2016. Web. 7 Sept. 2016.

[2] Levings, Jessica. “The New Food Label: What RDs Need to Know.” Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Great Valley, n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.

[3] FDA. “Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.” U.S. Food and Drug. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 3 Aug. 2016. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.

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