FDA proposes changes to nutrition labels

Twenty years after it was first introduced, the Nutrition Facts label may be receiving a makeover. The changes, proposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aim to update serving size and labeling requirements, implement a new design and stimulate the ultimate goal of better understanding of nutrition science.

There are several key changes to the proposed design, one of them being bolder, larger type around serving size and calorie count. Serving sizes themselves could also change to reflect the eating and drinking habits of today — not 20 years ago. According to the FDA website, “the label information on service sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.”

The proposed new labeling from the FDA. Click the image for more information.

For certain packages that could be consumed in more than one sitting, this proposed changes could even include a dual-column label, indicating both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information.

Additionally, for the first time, information would be added about added sugars. Some sugars are naturally occurring —such as those found in fruit and milk —but there are others that “include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation” (American Heart Association). Sources of such sugars include regular soft drinks, candy, cookies, etc.

These types of sugars, currently added in with natural sugars, could be added to another line entirely.

Another proposed change would be to remove the calories from fat line. Research has proved that the type of fat consumed is more important than the amount; the label would still require the total fats, saturated fats and trans fats labels.

Currently, the proposed labeling is open for public comment until June 2, 2014. Information for how to comment on the food label and/or the serving size for foods that could be reasonably consumed in more than one sitting can be found here.

UPDATE 07/01/14:  FDA officials recently held a round-table for clarification on proposed changes. This round-table was specifically for those in the dairy sector. Proposed rulings for a dual-column set-up for those products containing 2–4 servings are somewhat limited by package sizes. Packages with less than 40 square inches of labeling space (often for cheeses) are permitted to use the linear format. Officials also confirmed that in products containing 2–4 servings where dairy is solely used as an ingredient (shredded cheeses) would also be exempt.

Officials also provided clarification on vitamin label changes. Vitamins A and C do not have to be declared any longer; instead, they are being replaced by vitamin D and potassium. However, when vitamin A is “needed to fortify a milk or dairy product, as is required for reduced-fat milks and dairy foods, this would trigger the need to include vitamin A on the label.”

The International Dairy Foods Association is preparing comments on proposed changes in early August 2014.


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