The Future of Food Label Reading

food label

Changes are coming!

In May 2016, the FDA announced changes that will be made to the Nutrition Facts Food Label. Why are they changing, you ask?

The food label is great, but just like everything else in the world, it revolves. Since the current label is 20 years old, it’s time for a review and revamp. The changes are most beneficial to you, the everyday consumer. The reboot is based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups, and input from the public, according to the FDA.

What can you expect to change? Here are some highlights:

A New Look

The new food label will have a facelift. It’s meant to be easier on the eye and to highlight what is most important. Can you guess what line on the food label is most important to consumers? Calories. You can see below with the FDA’s sample label that the font size for calories is going to be increased. There is something else that is increasing in font size too – the serving size line. Most consumers have no idea that the calories listed on the label are for that specific serving size. So the new label will hopefully relay that message a little better.

food label

What you see next with the “facelift” is the vitamins and minerals down at the bottom. Now manufacturers have to list the exact amount of these items in each food, instead of just the %DV. Again, an added feature for the consumer’s knowledge.

And last, the footnote is getting shorter and is finishing the label with just the following statement:

*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

This will hopefully clear up any confusion that consumers have about what %DV really means.

Updated Nutrition Science

Science is always evolving – and so should our food labels. So the new label has a few new things to give you, the consumer, the upper hand.

Added sugars are now going to be on the label! Since new nutrition research has shown that it is beneficial to have less than 10% of your daily calories come from added sugars, the food label now provides you with the tools to calculate. You can figure out exactly how many grams of added sugar you consume, just by adding up the numbers on food labels. Super cool.

Vitamin D and potassium are now mandated to be on every label, along with calcium and iron. This is due to the fact that some people don’t get enough of them in their daily diet. That bumps Vitamin A and C down to not being required, but are allowed if the manufacturer would like to add. This is due to the fact that deficiencies of these vitamins in the general population are rare.

Guess what is leaving the label? Calories from Fat. A lot of people may be questioning the reasoning for this, but don’t worry. We know there are varying types of fats. Saturated fats, trans fats, and total fats will still be listed in grams and %DV on the label, phew. The “calories from fat” is leaving because it matters more what TYPE of fats you are consuming than total calories from fat. It’s important to note that unsaturated fats are what we aim for and they aren’t listed on the label. Take total fats and subtract saturated fats and you get a number of unsaturated fats. Bingo.

Serving Size Update

Did you know that by law, the serving size on a label is determined by what people are actually eating and now what people should be eating? Like I said, the label is 20 years old. Serving sizes back then were a lot different from what they are today. So new labels will reflect on what the public is actually eating – and we are eating more of everything.

Before, a small bag of chips may have 3 serving sizes in it. Now, the serving size may just read “1 bag” since people aren’t cutting it into thirds. Now people will see that if you eat the entire “snack bag” of chips, these are the total calories in that bag.

If you notice that the calorie count of one of your go-to foods has increased, double check the serving size listed, because it most likely has changed.

On the flip side, some foods that could/should be split into multiple servings (like a pint of ice cream) will have 2 columns – one if you eat just the serving size listed and one if you get fired and your boyfriend dumps you in the same day and you eat the whole tub….

food label

When Is This Happening?

Extensions are being applied for all of the time, but currently, the plan is for manufacturers to have these new labels in place by January 1 of 2020. The FDA is giving these companies time to change the calculations and maybe even their recipes since new information (like added sugars) is going to become public. Thankfully, the FDA is on our side and is demanding changes to help give consumers a fair chance at food label reading.

So there you go, a complete mini-series on food label reading. Questions? Please ask! email anytime 🙂