Since the early 1990s, the FDA’s Nutrition Facts charts have been a requirement for food packaging. In May 2016, the FDA published new rules which change some of the content and presentation of the Nutrition Facts chart. The FDA states that all food manufacturers must comply with the new rules by July 2018. The official FDA website contains pages and pages detailing the legalities. Here are some highlights gleaned from the FDA’s information.
The content of the chart is changing due to a few factors: New scientific evidence on how diet affects the risk of chronic diseases; adjustments to Serving Sizes; and the desire to better educate the food consumer. One of the most important changes is a mandatory declaration of Added Sugars. With obesity and diabetes on the rise, this was a new piece of information that the FDA wanted to introduce for consumers who are watching their sugar intake.
The vitamins section at the bottom has also changed. Vitamin D and Potassium are now mandatory, due to newer nationwide food consumption surveys which show that many Americans are lacking in these two nutrients. Vitamins A and C are now voluntary because the FDA now sees Vitamin A and C deficiencies as rare in the general population. Calcium and Iron will continue to be required on the label.
The presentation of the chart does look very similar to its current incarnation. But there are some important differences. Calories is shown in a much larger font size than previously to demonstrate its increased importance as something the FDA wants consumers to spot immediately. Serving Size is also much larger and bolder. The Vitamins section now has the “mg” value in addition to the % of Daily Value. The Daily Value statement footnote has been reworded to put calories in context of the daily diet.
For those of us consumers who can’t resist eating an entire small bag of snack chips, 24-oz soda, or pint of ice cream in one sitting, despite the 1990s Nutrition Facts chart declaring a multi-portion item, the FDA has us covered. Items such as these will require a dual-column format to define the nutritional difference between eating the recommended “per serving” and eating “per package.” The FDA has also adjusted how much food/beverage constitutes a “single serving” as now people are consuming more food in a “serving” than compared to 1990s calculations. With the information in this particular dual-column label, consumers 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.
It will be up to food manufacturers to have their food re-analyzed and calculated to meet these new specifications (such as the amount Added Sugars and Vitamin D). Manufacturers would also have to determine if their product is subject to the “multi-serving” per container factor and have to calculate the Nutrition for Per Serving and Per Container. The FDA documentation states that “Manufacturers are required to make and keep records to verify the mandatory declaration of added sugars as well as for certain fibers, vitamin E, folic acid, and folate.”
For more detail direct from the FDA, please see its website for Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label, and Industry Resources on the Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. There are several helpful downloadable PDFs.