Changes and What to Know

For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated…

For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated the nutrition facts label for all packaged food products.

In addition to sporting a streamlined design, the label features new and updated nutrition information.

Although the updated label began to appear on many foods earlier this year, some food manufacturers have until July 2021 to comply with the new regulations.

This article reviews some of the changes and additions to the new nutrition facts label.

There are several new additions to the updated nutrition facts label.

Added sugar

The amount of added sugar is now required to be listed on the new nutrition facts label.

Previously, the label only included the total amount of sugar present, which accounted for any added sugars and the natural ones found in foods like fruit.

The amount of added sugar includes any sugars that are added during processing, including ingredients like honey, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, or malt syrup.

Mounting research shows that added sugar intake may contribute to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and liver disease (1).

According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, your added sugar intake should be limited to less than 10% of your total daily calories, or about 12 teaspoons (50 grams) per day on a 2,000-calorie diet (2).

However, it’s estimated that the average American consumes about 17 teaspoons (68 grams) of added sugar per day (3).

The new nutrition facts label also includes a Daily Value (DV) percentage for added sugar, which makes it easier to understand how certain foods can fit into your diet.

Note that DVs are estimated based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You should ensure that your daily percentage totals do not exceed 100%. Otherwise, you’d consume more than the recommended maximum of 50 grams of added sugar per day.

Micronutrients

Two new micronutrients have been added to the updated nutrition facts label — potassium and vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a mineral that’s involved in maintaining bone strength, enhancing immune function, reducing inflammation, and more (4).

Given that it’s primarily obtained through sun exposure and found in very few food sources, vitamin D deficiency is very common (5, 6).

Potassium is another essential nutrient that’s necessary for regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels (7).

In the United States, it’s estimated that only 3% of adults and 10% of children under the age of 5 meet the adequate intake level for potassium (8).

summary

The new nutrition facts label includes the amount of added sugar per serving. Potassium and vitamin D were also added to the new label.

Several modifications have also been made to the current nutrition facts label.

Serving size

On the new nutrition facts label, the serving size is displayed in larger font, making it easier to read.

Serving sizes have also been updated to more accurately reflect realistic portions.

Instead of basing the serving sizes on the amounts that people should consume, the new nutrition facts label is based on the amount that most people realistically consume.

For example, one serving of ice cream was increased from 1/2 cup (66 grams) to 2/3 cups (88 grams).

Some research suggests that most people may not accurately judge appropriate portion sizes (9).

In fact, one small study found that people presented with photos of varying amounts of various foods perceived a wide array of portion sizes as normal (10).

What’s more, the way that they perceived the portion sizes affected the amount of food that they consumed during a meal (9).

Calories

The number of calories in a food product is now listed in a bigger and bolder font on the new nutrition facts label.

Calories are a measure of energy. Many weight management programs involve monitoring your intake of calories, as consuming fewer calories than you burn each day may lead to weight loss (11).

The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimate that women generally need 1,600–2,400 calories daily, while men require 2,000–3,000 calories per day (2).

However, daily calorie needs can vary based on a number of factors, including your height, weight, age, and physical activity levels (2).

Fats

The old nutrition facts label listed the number of calories from fat in each serving.

Along with the total grams of fat listed on the label, this was originally used to help consumers evaluate the amount of fat in a product relative to other nutrients like carbs and protein.

On the new nutrition facts label, the number of calories from fat has been removed entirely.

This is because research generally shows that the type of fat consumed may be more important than the amount (12, 13).

The total amount of fat, as well as the grams of trans and saturated fats, are still listed on the updated label.

Micronutrients

The old nutrition facts label listed the amounts of several important vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

However, vitamins A and C are no longer required to be listed on the new nutrition facts label.

Both of these vitamins are found in a variety of food sources, and deficiencies in these micronutrients are uncommon (14, 15).

On the other hand, calcium and iron are still listed.

Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a key role in bone health. A deficiency in calcium may contribute to osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and brittle (16).

Meanwhile, not getting enough iron in your diet can lead to iron deficiency anemia, a condition associated with symptoms like weakness, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath (16).

Women, infants, children, and people following a vegan or vegetarian diet may be at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia (17).

Daily Values

The Daily Value (DV) is the recommended amount of a specific nutrient that you should consume per day.

The DV has changed for several nutrients, including fiber, potassium, and calcium, and the new nutrition facts label will be updated to reflect these changes.

Like the old label, the new version will also list the percent DV (%DV), which details how much a specific nutrient in a serving of that food contributes to the total daily amount you need.

Additionally, the new nutrition facts label will list the amount of vitamins and minerals in milligrams (mg).

Footnote

The footnote at the bottom of the nutrition facts label has been updated to explain the percent DV more clearly.

The new footnote explains that the percent DV “tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet” (18).

Previously, the label did not explain the significance of the percent DV. Instead, it simply stated: “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.”

The new label also notes that the recommendation for 2,000 calories per day is used for general nutrition advice.

The exact number of calories and amount of nutrients you need per day can vary based on a number of factors, including your age, body size, health status, and activity level (19).

summary

Several modifications have been made to the new nutrition label. These include changes to the serving size, calories, fat, Daily Values, and footnote. Vitamins A and C were removed, and the amount of micronutrients is listed in milligrams (mg).

The new nutrition facts label is intended to help provide consumers the information they need to make healthy dietary decisions.

It also emphasizes specific nutrients that may be especially important to health based on recent research, including added sugars and key vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and iron.

Still, some have called for additional nutrients and ingredients to be listed on the label, such as caffeine.

Although caffeine must be listed as an ingredient if added to a product, food manufacturers are not required to specify the amount of caffeine present (20).

This information could be useful for people who are sensitive to caffeine or trying to limit their caffeine intake.

Others have also suggested color-coding labels based on their nutritional content and indicating whether foods are low, medium, or high in a specific nutrient (21).

This has been proposed as a simple way to help people choose healthier products to include in their diet, even with limited nutritional knowledge.

Regardless, as new research emerges on the relationship between nutrition and health, the nutrition facts label should continue to be updated to help consumers make informed decisions about their diet.

summary

The new nutrition facts label is designed to help consumers make healthy dietary decisions. Additional changes may be useful in the future, such as labeling the caffeine content or specifying whether products are low, medium, or high in specific nutrients.

The nutrition facts label was recently updated to help consumers make healthier decisions about their diet.

Some of the key changes include specifying the amount of added sugar, modifying which micronutrients are listed, updating serving sizes, and streamlining its design.

As researchers learn more about how nutrition can affect health in the future, the nutrition facts label should be updated accordingly.