Brace yourselves because the Nutrition Facts label on all packaged foods and drinks are changing. This is the first change in 20 years, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did this to help people understand the nutritional value of these foods more easily.
The new Nutrition Facts labels have updated nutritional information to correspond with new nutritional data and scientific information. The FDA announced its program for the new labels in 2016, and it has finally come to fruition; although, companies have until to July 2021 to comply with new changes.
Why Did Nutrition Facts Labels Change?
A poor diet is the common denominator for many of the chronic conditions that plague the American population. These conditions include type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, so the addition of certain sections on the Nutrition Facts aim to paint a more realistic picture about the way people eat today. This will hopefully help consumers make more informed dietary decisions.
What’s Different On The New Label?
Let’s address this because the serving size is at the very top of the label, just above calories. The serving size now has to be in bold font, but the amount of servings per container, which sits right above the serving size, is not in bold. The serving sizes have actually increased to reflect the amount of food Americans eat. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when you consider the obesity epidemic in America, but it does paint an accurate description of how much people typically eat. The FDA used ice cream as an example. The serving size used to be half a cup, but now it is two-thirds of a cup, because that’s the realistic serving size for Americans. The FDA stated that serving sizes have to be based on how much people eat, not how much people should eat; thus, explaining the larger serving sizes.
Food manufactures now have to include the added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label. The previous label only required the total percentage of sugar in the food, accounting for natural or added sugars. Added sugars are the sugars that manufacturers add to foods during processing. These typically include high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, or malt syrup. Added sugars should only comprise 10% of your daily caloric intake, but most people exceed that percentage. The primary culprits for added sugars in the Standard American Diet are sweetened beverages and snacks/sweets, which include candy and packaged desserts.
This is a simple change and it reflects the serving size. The main difference is that the calories section is much larger and bolder than before. Lots of people debate calorie counting, but there are people who want to know how many calories they consume per day. Now it’s easier to see the amount of calories per serving.
To piggyback on the updated calories section, the fats section also has updated information. The old Nutrition Facts label stated the calories from fat, but nutritional science is more concerned with the types of fat people consume. The new labels don’t have “calories from fat,” but they still show the amounts and recommended daily intake of the different fats (trans, saturated, and total fat) per serving.
This is a not a new section, but the nutrients are new. On the old labels, manufacturers listed the amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron present in the foods. Now, the labels include vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. The reason for the addition of vitamin D and potassium is because most Americans are deficient in these nutrients. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that helps to support immune function, reduce inflammation, and maintain bone strength, among other things. The best way to obtain vitamin D is via direct sun exposure because it isn’t available in food sources, which explains the deficiency in America. Potassium is an essential mineral that can help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Roughly 3% of American adults meet the recommended daily intake of potassium. Unlike vitamin D, potassium is readily available in many food sources.
The final update to the Nutrition Facts label comes at the bottom in the footnote. The wording is updated to explain the meaning of “percent daily value.” The percent daily value (%DV) explains how much of a nutrient (e.g. fats, potassium, sugars, or sodium) in a serving of food contributes to the average daily diet. These percentages are still based on the 2,000 calorie per day diet. You may need a different %DV based on your caloric needs.