New food product labels can lead to better informed consumers

Understanding the new nutrition fact labels will assist in healthy eating/

How often do you look at the nutrition facts label on food products? To many consumers who are seeking to understand the nutritional value of the food they are eating, nutrition facts have become an important tool in their efforts to feed their families healthfully food. For those creating a new food product, this is an important fact to note!

According to recent research by The Hartman Group, “the majority of consumers say they do read the nutritional panel on product labels... Even consumers who aren’t necessarily diet-minded: 72 percent say they read it and among these consumers who are not watching their weight, 42 percent read it frequently or almost always.”

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for guaranteeing that nutrition facts panels are updated regularly. According to some it was long overdue in order to keep up with changing dietary guidelines. It had been more than 20 years since the last update. The new label features a refreshed design, reflects updated information about nutrition science and better reflects serving sizes.Additionally, labeling requirements for certain package sizes are easier to read relative to their size.

Since 1968, the FDA’s Fair Packaging and Labeling Act has required all consumer products involved in interstate commerce to be honestly and informatively labeled. However, the law did not provide specific guidelines for food. In 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was implemented, which required all packaged foods to bear nutrition labeling and all health claims for foods to be consistent with terms defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

While nutrition labels are optional for companies with less than $500,000 in sales/year, it is clear that consumers do want to see it on food products. “Consumers want to know what’s in the product and how fresh it is (made on/sell by date labeling), and the amount of calories, sugar, sodium, fat grams and even the more nebulous terms like GMOs, healthy, organic and natural,” according to the Hartman article cited above.

Most food manufacturers will be required to use the new label by July 26, 2018. Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply with the new rules. Consumers may start to see the new labels as early as July 2016, especially on new products.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development, packaging and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food, value-added agriculture, and natural resource products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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