The FDA has proposed an update for the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods. This update would reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. The proposed label would also replace out-of-date serving sizes with options that reflect how much food people actually eat. It would even feature a fresh design that highlights key parts of the label (like calories and serving sizes). We asked our dietitian editor, Lynn Greiger, RDN, CDE, to give us her opinion about the proposed changes and how they will affect nutrition educators and consumers. Here are her 4 likes and 2 dislikes for the proposed label.
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The FDA has proposed an update for the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods. This update would reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. The proposed label would also replace out-of-date serving sizes with options that reflect how much food people actually eat. It would even feature a fresh design that highlights key parts of the label (like calories and serving sizes).
Here’s the present design (it’s 20 years old!):
Here’s the proposed update, which could be finalized within the year:
We asked our dietitian editor, Lynn Greiger, RDN, CDE, to give us her opinion about the proposed changes and how they will affect nutrition educators and consumers.
Here are her 4 likes and 2 dislikes about the proposed label:
Are you ready for a shock? Here are certain products that would have to change their serving sizes based on average consumption. Take a look at how much people currently eat, compared to what is on the package…
What Might Not Change:
These beverage manufacturers are already ahead of the curve!
The New Nutrition Facts Label: Our Predictions
The serving size changes may add confusion to nutrition education programs that advise smaller sizes or follow diabetes exchanges. We believe that educators will have to add “calorie awareness” to their lessons on portion control, along with more awareness of MyPlate serving sizes (versus what the manufacturer is offering).
We also think that food manufacturers will come out with single serving sizes that contain fewer calories, like 100-calorie bottles of sports beverages, tea, sodas, etc. 100-calorie snack packs, sodas, and candies are already being manufactured, but we think that the number and type of these products will continue to rise.
The food scientists and their advertising counterparts are always brilliant at being able to make processed, calorie-dense foods sound okay on the package. They’re also amazing at following every food and nutrition trend. Remember the sugar-free cookies, the carbohydrate-free bread, and the breaded fried fish without trans fat (that is instead laden with palm oil)? Or the whole grain sugar loop cereals?
We predict that food manufacturers will find a way to add natural sugars or sugars that have a higher sweetening power so that the added sugar level on the label stays low. And we predict that they will add nutrients to woo consumers into buying products that appear more healthful. I can already see the ads for vitamin D fortified sandwich cookies.
It will be a while before we will have the final version of the new Nutrition Facts label.
The FDA will take 90 days to gather comments and then issue a final rule at some time during the next year. Food manufacturers will have 2 years to comply with their labels. You can bet that food manufacturers are already planning their strategies.
In the meantime, remind your clients not to stop reading food labels while they shop. Here are 3 things consumers can do while they wait for the new food label rules:
Here is an example of how people can use the Nutrition Facts label to improve the healthfulness of the foods they buy. The can of no-salt-added peas has 285 mg less sodium per 1/2 cup serving than the regular version.
Old or new, the food label is a solid nutrition education tool to help consumers make better choices each time they shop in the store. And its uniformity on every product helps people compare foods and learn the basics of effective shopping as part of a healthful lifestyle.
Let’s try one more example. Check out the label differences between ground turkey and ground turkey breast…
Hint: There’s a big difference in fat and saturated fat levels!
Tweet us @foodhealth to let us know what you think of these labels.
And if you are really interested in reading more, check out what other health professionals are saying:
The Nutrition Education Store has many resources for using the Nutrition Facts label, including posters, shopping tours, handouts, brochures, PowerPoint shows, and tear-off pads:
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