The Food and Drug Administration today announced new updates to the nutritional facts label to appear on most packaged foods sold across the U.S. Of the changes, one of the more noteworthy will be the introduction of dual columns that show both ‘per serving’ and ‘per package’ calorie and nutrition information for multi-serving products.

Among other prominent changes is the mandate to declare ‘added sugar’ in grams and percent daily value (%DV), in an effort to help Americans keep sugar to under 10% of their total calorie intake. The ‘Calories from Fat’ box will totally be removed as the research literature shows that type of fat is more important than the amount of fat. Boxes for “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will remain. 

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Manufacturers with ≥$10 million annual food sales will be required to use the new label by July 26, 2018, while manufacturers who don’t meet the threshold will have a further year’s grace period. The Nutritional Facts label has been mandatory in the U.S. since 1993, the new update is the first time some of the facts will be changed since then.

How the new label will look

The FDA referenced the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans as the source for many of the new updates. Early reaction to the updates have been positive, with The American Heart Association (AHA) one of the organizations to commend the FDA. “We are pleased that the final rule requires labels to include the Daily Value (DV) for added sugars, which are a big source of excess calories in Americans’ diets,” said AHA’s CEO, Nancy Brown. “Having the percent DV on the label will help the public gauge how much – or how little – of the product can be consumed while maintaining a healthy diet.”

A full list of the key updates is below:

    — An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings,” two important elements in making informed food choices.

    — Requirements for serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the last serving size requirements were published in 1993. By law, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, requires that serving sizes be based on what people actually eat.

    — Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. It is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars, and this is consistent with the scientific evidence supporting the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

    — “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples include a pint of ice cream and a 3-ounce bag of chips. With dual-column labels available, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.

    — For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.

    — Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the %DV that manufacturers include on the label.

    — Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount, in addition to the %DV. These are nutrients that some people are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. The %DV for calcium and iron will continue to be required, along with the actual gram amount. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins are rare, but these nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.

    — “Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.

    — An abbreviated footnote to better explain the %DV.

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