Nutrition facts label changes: What you need to know

Nutrition facts labels on packaged foods are getting a long-overdue update. The biggest changes include calories listed in larger, bold font and a new line beneath total sugars that shows the amount of added sugars. Serving sizes will also be updated to make them more realistic with American consumer behaviors, because there’s no way that small bag of chips has three servings.

The nutrition facts changes were first proposed by the Food and Drug Administration two years ago, and this is the first significant change to the labels since they were introduced in 1994. The labeling changes were announced Friday morning by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her "Let's Move!" campaign to combat childhood obesity.

“I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved Nutrition Facts label that will be on food products nationwide,” Obama said. “This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.”

Most food manufacturers will be required to use the new label by July 26, 2018. Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an extra year to get in compliance.

Key updates to Nutrition Facts
Source: FDA.gov

An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings,” two important elements in making informed food choices.

Requirements for serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the last serving size requirements were published in 1993. By law, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, requires that serving sizes be based on what people actually eat.

Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. It is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars, and this is consistent with the scientific evidence supporting the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples include a pint of ice cream and a 3-ounce bag of chips. With dual-column labels available, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.

For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the %DV that manufacturers include on the label.

Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount, in addition to the %DV. These are nutrients that some people are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. The %DV for calcium and iron will continue to be required, along with the actual gram amount. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins are rare, but these nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.

“Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.

An abbreviated footnote to better explain the %DV.

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