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[News] FDA Proposes New, Revamped Nutrition Facts Labels; Attack Serving Sizes & Sugar Head On

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Image: New York Times

The iconic, grid-like Nutrition Facts label was first introduced in 1993. Nutrition nerds, get excited — the quantitative representation of food is getting a much-needed revamp. The effects could be dramatic.

For the first time in a whopping 20 years, the FDA has proposed a face lift to the estimated 700,000 nutrition labels currently plastered on the back of every box, can, bag, or bottle. Proposed changes are designed to provide consumers with better info to more easily make informed food choices; with the intention of attacking obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases head on.1

“Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems. The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems.” — Michael Landa, FDA2

While the new label would likely take more than a year to hit shelves (if passed), it would eventually include a lineup of major cosmetic changes — refreshing everything from calorie numbers and serving sizes, to the way that sugar is presented. Here’s what’s important.

 

Two Major Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label


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1. Serving sizes are getting a reality check. Serving sizes would more accurately reflect actual servings. That is, more in-line what people realistically consume in one sitting. Think individual muffins with 2 servings, 1/2 cup servings of ice cream, a King-size Snickers bar with 3 servings, or a 20 oz. can of soda split into 2.5 servings (8 fl oz. as a base). It’s asinine in today’s society.3

Two examples in practice —

  • For a Ben & Jerry’s pint, there would now be 2 servings per container; not 4. That would obviously double the calories, fat, sugar, etc, but the idea is that people really do eat that much — therefore labels should reflect that.
  • Packaging also effects servings. Instead of splitting up larger bottles into multiple servings with the same base nutritional content, they’d now be listed as 1 full serving across the board (except for excessively large bottles; e.g. 1 liter). A 12 oz. and 20 oz. Coke would now display the nutritional content for the entire bottle.

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This would take effect for roughly 25 different categories of packaged foods — an estimated 17% of the approximately 150 categories.4

 

2. Say hello to “added sugars.” Similar to the logic behind trans fats and saturated fat, the “added sugars” row would be a subcategory to further stratify different types of sugar. This would distinguish naturally occurring sugar (e.g. fructose in fruit) from anything added during processing (e.g. corn syrup, HFCS, evaporated cane sugar)

The added sugar line is absolutely HUGE. Even though they might technically have the same # of grams of sugar, the sugar content in Sour Patch Kids, cereal, or Smuckers Jelly is very different from that in an apple, mango, or banana. Like trans fat, it would be a ubiquitous, instant, easy-to-read barometer of food quality (and a red flag for highly processed foods).

Screenshot 2014-02-28 10.16.13

 

Other Minor Changes


On top of the updates to serving sizes and sugar, 4 other minor changes include:5

  • Greater emphasis on calories and # of servings — both would be in massive bold type at the top.
  • No more “calories from fat” — quality takes precedence over quantity.
  • Updated Daily Values for a number of nutrients. The %DV numbers would also shift to a column on the left to increase their prominence.
  • Potassium and vitamin D will now be required on every label. They’re critical for healthy blood pressure and bones, respectively.

 

The proposal is open for 90 days. We’ll continue to provide updates on the proposed changes as they become available.

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
Follow Lean It UP on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for real-time fitness/nutrition tips, advice, info and updates.

 
 

References, Notes, Links

  1. Washington Post — Food labels to get first makeover in 20 years with new emphasis on calories, sugar.)) ((NYTimes — New F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make ‘Serving Sizes’ Reflect Actual Servings []
  2. FDA — Nutrition Facts Label: Proposed Changes Aim to Better Inform Food Choices []
  3. FDA — Food Serving Sizes Getting a Reality Check []
  4. WSJ — New F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make ‘Serving Sizes’ Reflect Actual Servings []
  5. FDA.gov []