New Nutrition Labeling Rules

FDASusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor

 

 

Initially proposed more than two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced modifications to the packaged food labeling guidelines that were first established more than 20 years ago. The label overhaul is intended to inform consumers about their food choices and make labels easier to decipher for those of us who may not have an advanced mathematics degree. While companies have two to three years to comply, some food and beverage companies began creating healthier choices a decade ago, as a result of changing eating patterns and consumer demand. It is estimated the new rules will affect over 800,000 packaged food and beverage products.

While the sugar industry contends that there is no scientific link between sugar and disease, the changes can’t really come soon enough, as an alarming number of Americans battle obesity, diabetes type 2 and heart disease. Hopefully, in addition to helping consumers make more informed choices, the labels may challenge the food and beverage industries to revamp more of their products and reduce added sugar content. According to the FDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, here is what some these changes mean for you:

Added sugars –  An important step forward for public health, manufacturers must list the total sugar content per serving and distinguish between naturally occurring sugar and added sugars that add no nutritional value. The label will also clearly show the percent daily value per serving of added sugar and other nutrients based on a 2,000 calories per day diet, helping interested consumers track their daily totals. The 2015-2020 U.S.D.A Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugar to no more than 10% of total daily calories. Currently, the average American consumes 23 teaspoons (368 calories) of added sugar daily. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) and men no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) of added sugars per day. Note: one teaspoon is equal to 4 grams of sugar.

Serving size – The label includes more accurate serving sizes to reflect the amount typically consumed in one sitting. By law, a serving size is what is actually consumed at one time. It’s important to note that the serving size is not necessarily the recommended portion size. Whether one has an 8, 12 or 20-ounce soda, each is now considered to be one serving, as people normally drink the entire beverage. The dual column labels will indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for multi-serving packages that could be consumed either in one sitting or in multiple sittings. The labels should clear up any confusion about calorie or nutrient counts when a multi-serving product is consumed at one time.

Fat calorie count – In line with up-to-date scientific research and the movement towards inclusion of healthy dietary fats, the “calories from fat” line has been deleted. The label will show total fats, saturated fats and trans fats along with % daily value. Although controversy runs high as to how much fat we should consume in a healthy diet, the USDA recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories, which equates to about 22 grams and 200 calories.

Micronutrients – As many Americans are deficient in Vitamin D and potassium, these nutrients and their % daily value will now appear on the label.  Amounts of vitamins A and C will no longer appear, as most receive enough of these nutrients to prevent disease, but not necessarily enough to maintain optimal health.

Although it remains to be seen how these and additional label changes will affect our behavior and eating patterns, the hope is that this will help consumers reduce their daily amount of added sugars, help to track total calorie consumption, and have a positive influence on obesity, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and other preventable chronic diseases. Reducing added sugars is a giant step in the right direction, but it is not a cure all. A sedentary lifestyle, overeating and a nutritionally void diet have all contributed to the generally poor state of health of millions of Americans. A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, lean protein, nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy fats, plus regular exercise and healthy sleep is a formula for a better outcome for long term health and wellness. And, of course, encouraging consumers to both read and heed labels may be another challenge, indeed.

References:
FDA modernizes Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm502182.htm
What Does the New Nutritional Facts Panel Mean for You? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Explains Changes.  www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/what-does-the-new-nutrition-facts-panel-mean-for-you-academy-of-nutrition-and-dietetics-explains-changes-300272134.html
FDA to modify food label guidelines to include added sugar details. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-fda-nutritionlabel-idUSKCN0YB1OF
The FDA’s New Rules for Nutrition Labels. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/05/new-fda-rules/483653/
New U.S. food label rules to require info on added sugars. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/new-us-food-label-rules-to-require-info-on-added-sugars/article30107652/

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