Same Facts, New Label: Examining the New Nutrition Facts Label

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The revision of the nutrition facts label is long overdue and I applaud the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for these changes. Americans have become savvier about nutrition and want to know what they are eating. Changes to the new food label are needed to reflect the reality of the modern American diet.

Significant Changes:

This new nutrition facts label would be the first significant redrawing of the nutrition information on food labels since the federal government started requiring them in the early 1990s. Nutrition facts labels at that time were based on eating habits and nutrition data from the 1970s and ’80s, prior to portion sizes expanding significantly.

Perhaps the most significant label change is to serving size. Essentially, serving sizes will become indicative of current consumption. A 20 ounce bottle of soda would be counted as one serving, rather than the 2.5 servings currently listed. Unless people are sitting down and measuring their servings based on the serving size listed, this revision provides more transparency to the consumer.

In addition to changes to serving size, the updated nutrition facts label provides a separate line for added sugars. Some research has suggested that added sugars have contributed substantially to the obesity epidemic.

Further, percent daily values have been moved to the left, shifting them more into the spotlight and making them easier to read. Percent daily values can be helpful, specifically when looking to the amount of sodium in some foods. For all individuals and especially those with high blood pressure, identifying high sodium foods is important.

Although the most abundant sources of Vitamin D is the sun, Vitamin D counts would be required with the updated label revisions. As a substantial amount of children and adults have low Vitamin D, especially in New England, this change may be helpful to those hoping to consume more Vitamin D from food sources.

Calorie counts will be more prominent with this re-designed food label. Further, the existing “Calories from Fat” line would be removed. Many forget that not all fats are created equal and that mono and polyunsaturated fats, in appropriate amounts, are heart healthy fats.

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Future Considerations:

Perhaps the only item I was a bit surprised not to see modified on the label was cholesterol. Cholesterol in food can be misleading, as research has shown that dietary cholesterol it is not as strong a contributor to high cholesterol in individuals as are saturated and trans fats.

Further, detailing calories and portion sizes could be a strong incentive for food companies to modify ingredients in some of their foods. For example, when the FDA required a category for trans fats in 2006, companies reduced the amount they added to food soon after.

Skylar’s Bottom Line: Revisions to the nutrition facts label by the FDA was absolutely a step in the right direction but of course will only help consumers who read them.