6 Ways the Nutrition Facts Label May Change

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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6 Ways the Nutrition Facts Label May Change

It’s probably rare for any of us MyFitnessPal folks to go a day without glancing at at least one Nutrition Facts Label. For the past 20 plus years, these labels have given us nutritional insight into the foods we’ve been eating–but aside from the addition of trans fats back in 2006, these nutrition labels have remained essentially unchanged since they were introduced back in 1993.

Not surprisingly, the American diet has changed a lot in those 20 years. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have been updated not once, not twice, but four times, and there have been some pretty major advances in nutrition research, the food industry and understanding consumer behaviors around food choices. We undoubtedly look at nutrition today much differently than we did 20 years ago which is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to bring the Nutrition Facts label up-to-date.

Yesterday at the White House, Michelle Obama unveiled the FDA’s proposed changes to the new label which aims to make it easier for us to identify unhealthy packaged foods and better understand how certain foods contribute to our daily nutrition goals.

Highlights include:

1. The addition of “Added Sugars”. We’ve been told for years that we consume too much added sugar but the current nutrition label offers consumers no information about just how much has been added versus how much foods contain naturally. In order to help us track just how much added sugar we’re eating, the FDA has proposed to include “Added Sugars” beneath “Sugar” on the updated nutrition label.

2. More realistic serving sizes. By law, serving sizes are to be based on what people actually eat not how much they should be consuming, but the current nutrition labels still reflect the smaller portion sizes of 20 years ago. Under the proposed update, serving sizes would aim to be more realistic to what you or I would consume in one sitting. For example, a 20-ounce soda would be 1 serving rather than 2 1/2.

3. Addition of a “Per Package” column. The proposed label change would also introduce a “dual column” to the Nutrition Facts label, indicating both “per serving” and “per package” nutrition information–for those larger packages that could be consumed in one, or multiple sittings.

4. The addition of Vitamin D and Potassium. Most Americans don’t get enough of either of these nutrients that play an important roles in bone health, blood pressure and decreasing risk of chronic disease. Vitamin D and Potassium content would join Iron and Calcium on the new label. In turn, listing Vitamin C and Vitamin A content would become voluntary.

5. “Calories from Fat” would be cut. The proposed label would still show “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat,” but “Calories from Fat” would be removed since research has largely shown the types of fat have more of an impact on our health.

6. An easier-to-read label. Calories and serving sizes would be more prominent in larger and bolder type. Additionally, the %DV (percent daily value) column would be moved to the left so those nutrients could more immediately be put into context of how they fit into your nutrition goals.

From a Dietitian’s perspective, these proposed updates have potential to make a big impact and could make the nutrition label on packaged foods easier to navigate. Not surprisingly, this more revealing food label is expected to stir things up, particularly within the food industry.  The proposed changes are subject to a 90-day comment period. Once the final updates have been agreed upon, food manufacturers will have 2 years to switch to the updated label.

For more information, head on over to the FDA’s website. Stay tuned for updates!

Which of the proposed changes are you most in favor of? Any you don’t agree with? Let us know in the comments below or share your opinions on Facebook!

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.