What changes are coming to the Nutrition Facts label?

Find out what specifically is changing on the food label and why.

Original label on the left, new label on the right. | Photo source: USDA
Original label on the left, new label on the right. | Photo source: USDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it mandatory for packaged foods to include a new nutrition label. This new label must be included on the packaging by July 26, 2018, (or 2019 for companies w/ smaller sales).

What’s changing?

One big change is the serving size. Nutrition labels will now show serving sizes based on the sizes of the servings people typically eat, rather than on how much they should eat. This will be helpful for those who normally do not pay attention to serving sizes on food labels (i.e. – most people). For example, previously a serving of crackers will give them 120 calories for six crackers. With the new serving sizes, people will be able to see that the typical serving of 30 crackers they are about to eat will give them 600 calories. The serving size will also be dependent on the packaging, as both 12 and 20 oz soft drinks will both be considered one serving since they are typically consumed in one sitting.

In addition, on the label, the font size of serving size and calorie information will be larger and bolded to draw the reader’s eye. Together, serving size and calorie information will help consumers make fully informed decisions about the food products they purchase.

Added Sugars will make its debut on the label, directly under Total Sugars which is under Total Carbohydrate on the label. The FDA decided to include Added Sugars, in part, based on the recommendation in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to have no more than 10 percent of the daily calories come from added sugars. This is because added sugars add calories without really adding any other significant nutrients. Therefore, if consumers take in more than 10 perrcent of calories from added sugars, it is likely that they will not be able to get enough other required nutrients without going over their daily calorie recommendation.

For example, if someone is trying to follow an 1800-calorie per day diet and that person consumes three sodas at 300 calories each, they have just eaten half of their calories for the day without getting most of their essential vitamins and minerals and proteins. Therefore, in order to get the other nutrients they require, they will likely have to go over the recommended1800 calories for the day. For an 1800-calorie diet, 10% would be 180 calories or 45g of sugars. To help consumers in their choices, the new food label will show not only the grams of added sugars, but also the percent of calories based on a 2000-calorie diet. 

The food labels no longer are required to mention vitamins A and C because deficiencies in those nutrients are not very common. Iron and calcium values will remain. Newly required are vitamin D and potassium since they are typically low in the average American diet and are important to reduce the risks of osteoporosis and heart disease, respectively. Additionally, the amounts of these nutrients are included, not just their percent daily values.

Finally, “Calories from fat” will no longer be seen on the nutrition labels since the type of fat is more important to health than total fat.

Michigan State University Extension can help you answer questions you may have about the food label, and offers free nutrition classes, to find out more, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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