By Bree Weeden
As a nutrition major, I spend a lot of time reading food labels. It’s impossible for me to be in a grocery store for less than an hour, and my friends have given up on going shopping with me. So imagine my excitement last May when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will be changing the required nutrition label for the first time since 1993. Food manufacturers will be required to use the new nutrition label by July 26, 2018. Smaller manufacturers that make less than ten million dollars in sales annually have until July 26, 2019. That’s a long way away, so you have plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the new label. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect to see on the back of all your food packages:
- Easier to read: The new food labels will be easier for the average consumer to interpret. The serving size, number of servings per container, and total calories will be increased in size. In addition, calories and serving size will be bolded. And speaking of calories…
- Bye-bye, calories from fat: The new label will no longer include “calories from fat.” The FDA says this is because it wants to encourage consumers to pay attention to the type of fat in their food, and not just how many calories there are from fat. Side note: although the FDA recently announced they will be reducing the amount of partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats in food products, trans fats will continue to appear on the new label as they have not been completely phased out.
- Added sugars: This is by far my favorite feature of the new label. Manufacturers are now required to indicate the total amount of sugars as well as the amount of sugar added to the food. This is great news because many consumers are misinformed about sugar and think that any amount of sugar in a food is unhealthy and unnatural. An apple, for example, has about 15-20 grams of sugar, but no one will ever try to convince you that apples are bad for you! The inclusion of “Added Sugars” on the label will help consumers differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and sugars that are added for extra sweetness by the manufacturer.
- Vitamins and minerals update: The FDA is no longer requiring vitamins A and C on the food label and is replacing them with Vitamin D and Potassium. When the nutrition label was first introduced in the 90s, many Americans had Vitamin A and C deficiencies. Now, however, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins and instead are consuming too little Vitamin D and Potassium. Vitamin D is found in few foods naturally (some foods, such as milk, are fortified with Vitamin D), and most Americans don’t realize that they are Vitamin D deficient. Potassium is found in many foods, from bananas to chicken, but needs to be consumed in a way that balances out sodium intake. Unfortunately, American in general consume a lot of processed foods which are high in sodium, and need to be more aware of their potassium intake.
- Big changes in serving sizes: Since 1993, the amount of food we eat has increased. Serving sizes on food labels will be increasing to reflect a more realistic serving representative of the American consumer. In addition, in packages which contain between one and two servings, calories and nutrients must be labeled as one serving to reflect the fact that most people will consume the whole thing in one sitting. For certain foods, the label must include two columns: one for each serving, and one for the package as a whole.
Take a look at the two labels side by side! The current label is on the left, and the new label is on the right. Get used to seeing this on the back of your mac and cheese!