Coming Soon: The New Nutrition Label
May 27, 2016, Jules Shapiro
What do changes coming to the nutrition label on food packaging mean to you? The purpose of new labeling requirements is to help you make more sense out of not only the nutritional quality of your meals but the portion size. This change allows you to eat without the chore of mind-boggling mathematical formulas to determine how to compare what you are eating versus what the manufacturer calls a “portion”. As The First Lady, Michelle Obama said while introducing the new labels, “…very soon you will no longer need a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food you’re buying is actually good for our kids.”
Grab your fork and knife, let’s plate up and dissect this new label.
- Serving sizes. Serving sizes on the nutrition label are hardly realistic. According to Dr. Lisa Young, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% of the serving sizes will need to change in order to meet new requirements. For 20 years we have been trying to maintain unrealistic portions or mathematically calculating the nutritional information of our meal based on what we really ate versus what the package has told us we should have eaten in one portion.The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act is what determines how the serving sizes appear. These portion sizes are descriptions and not recommendations. What at one time may have been three cookies to a portion may now be a half of the box.
- Calories. In an attempt to address the ever growing epidemic of obesity in America, the FDA is requiring that calories be printed in a larger, bold typeface. Consumers will know in a clear and direct way exactly how many calories each more accurately measured serving size will add to their diet.
- Added sugars. Something NEW! Wow, do people hate change, especially change that they believe might hurt them. Added sugars are the new category added to nutrition labels. You will find added sugars in both grams and the FDA percent daily value. There is ZERO nutritional value to added sugar but added sugar is terrible for your blood sugar and weight control. The sugar industry, according to The Atlantic, says that there is no scientific fact to back this claim. We disagree based on a study published in JAMA in April of 2014 which found that individuals who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. (American Heart Assc.)
- Multi-serving products. Have you ever eaten a bag of microwave popcorn while watching a movie? Sure, it is easy to share a bag with a friend, but it is not that hard to eat the entire bag on your own either. A single bag of Orville Redenbacher Simply Salted Microwave Popcorn is 2.5 servings. Many products that you could blow through all by yourself (hello, Ben and Jerry’s!) are multi-serving products and that fact will now be made clearer by printing dual columns of nutritional information allowing you to put your calculator app somewhere less accessible. Read the applicable nutrition label column when you are eating your popcorn with or without your friend.
- Odd-sized packages. Packages or containers that are between one and two servings, such as 20-ounce bottles of sodas, once labeled 2.5 servings, the new nutrition label calls this one serving.
- Sodium and dietary fiber. Based on the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Institute of Medicine recommendations, the percent daily values for sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D will change. For example, the new recommendations for fiber consumption call for up to 28 grams a day. If a food contains 5 grams of fiber, it is currently labeled as 20 percent of the daily value. Based on the new requirements that food only contains 18 percent of the daily value. Sodium and vitamin D will change similarly.
- Vitamin D and potassium. We are not getting enough Vitamin D and Potassium. Hoping that Americans will see these added to the labels in grams and percentages, we will pay more attention to our consumption of both.
- Vitamins A and C. These will be removed from labels since deficiencies of both are rare.
- Fat. · A listing of “calories from fat” is no longer required because “research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount”, according to FDA. However, “Total Fat,” and the subcategories “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will still be required.
- Percent Daily Value. This will remain but a version of what “Percent Daily Value” means will be easier to understand.
That is it! While it looks rather overwhelming, the truth is, simplicity is the result. When our nutrition label is simple and realistic the result should be better nutrition for us and for the families we feed. Better nutrition not only because we have a better idea of what goes into a serving of food but better quality in our foods as manufacturers begin their scramble to make their labels look better by making their products more healthy.
Companies have until 2018 to implement these labels, those with smaller revenues have an extra year. But, you can use this information to help you when reading labels today.
Already, products laden with sugar are looking for ways to change their ingredients to reflect consumers desire for healthier choices and greater transparency. Certainly, these corporations have no desire to list such high numbers under “added sugar”. This may turn into more than an advancement of the growing health and nutrition revolution. Perhaps this will tip the scale toward an entire American food revolution.
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Sources: FDA.gov, goodhouskeeping.com, heart.org, theatlantic.com, image via The Wall Street Journal