FDA Proposes Food Labeling Changes To Update Serving Sizes, Highlight Caloric Content

After 20 years, the familiar Nutrition Facts label on most food packages in the United States is finally getting a face-lift.

Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced several proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts box on food labels, which was originally created with the goal of making it easier for consumers to make healthier food choices. The proposed changes, which are currently still in draft form but will be formally published on March 3, reflect new research on the relationship between nutrition and chronic disease, as well as the evolving food consumption patterns in US consumers.

Some of the specific changes include:

  1. Replacing the current “recommended” serving size for a product with one that more accurately represents what people actually consume as a  serving, even if it exceeds the ideal size.

For example, the current serving size for ice cream on US food labels is a half-cup, containing approximately 200 calories. But in reality, people consume closer to 1 cup of ice cream per serving. Thus, the new label would depict a 1-cup, 400-calorie serving size rather than a half-cup, 200-calorie serving size. Similarly, for sodas, because most people consume an entire can or bottle as 1 serving, the serving size would be either 12 or 20 ounces, depending on the size of the bottle.

The FDA's new serving size concept. Source: fda.gov.

The FDA’s proposed new concept of serving size. Source: fda.gov.

  1. Making the number of calories per serving more prominent.
  2. Requiring the amount of “added sugars” per serving to be included.
  3. Changing the reference (or recommended) daily intake values for certain nutrients based on new evidence compiled by the Institute of Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For example, daily reference calcium intake will increase from 1000 mg to 1300 mg, and daily reference sodium intake will decrease from 2400 mg daily to 2300 mg daily.
  4. Revising the list of specific nutrients for which information on percent daily value (% DV) would  always be required. Information on vitamins A and C will no longer be required; instead, % DV for vitamin D and potassium will be required.

Here are examples of a current label (left) and its counterpart under the proposed new labeling rules (right):

Current (left) and proposed (right) Nutrition Facts labels. Source: fda.gov.

“Over half of American adults use this label on a regular basis,” said Michael Taylor, JD, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a press conference today. He said that the FDA is hopeful that the labeling changes will help people make healthier food choices.

The FDA will be accepting public comment on the proposed changes for 90 days, after which a final decision will be made for the label’s new look.

Categories: Diet, Health Policy, Nutrition/ Malnutrition, Public Health