Everything You Need to Know About the New Nutrition Facts Label

Updated on October 28th, 2020
New Nutrition Facts Label

The famous “Nutrition Facts” label just got its initial major makeover since the early nineties! If you frequently check the Nutrition Facts label on your food packages’ back, you might observe it’s a bit different lately.

In May 2016, the FDA approved new Nutritional Facts label designs that better reflect today’s nutritional requirements. By now, many big food manufacturers have already made the switch; little firms have until 2021.

The original Nutritional Facts labels—now more than twenty years old—have been altered to mirror current scientific studies, links between disease and diet, the public’s input, and updated dietary recommendations. It’s about time!

Here’s a closer look at changes in food labels.

New additions to the label

There are many new additions to the new nutrition facts label.

1. Added sugar

The amount of added sugar is now needed to be listed on the updated nutrition facts label. Earlier, the label only included the total amount of sugar present, which accounted for any added sugars and the natural ones present in foods like fruit [1].

The quantity of added sugar includes any added sugars during processing, including ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, or brown sugar. Mounting studies show that added sugar intake may contribute to several health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and obesity [2].

2. Micronutrients

Two new micronutrients have been incorporated into the new nutrition facts label — vitamin D and potassium. Vitamin D is a mineral that supports enhancing immune function, maintaining bone strength, reducing inflammation, and more.

Given that it’s majorly obtained through sun exposure and present in very few food sources, vitamin D deficiency is widespread [3]. Potassium is another critical nutrient that’s necessary for regulating blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

3. Modifications to the label

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

4. Serving size

The serving size is displayed in a larger font on the new nutrition facts label, making it simpler to read. Serving sizes have also been modified to more precisely reflect realistic portions.

Rather than basing the serving sizes on the amounts that individuals should take, the updated nutrition facts label is based on the quantity that most individuals realistically take [4].

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

5. Calories

The amount of calories in a food product is now listed in a larger and bolder font on the new nutrition facts label. Calories are a measure of energy. Most weight management programs involve monitoring your calorie intake, as consuming fewer calories than you burn each day may lead to weight shedding.

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimate that women generally require 1,600–2,400 calories per day, while men require 2,000–3,000 calories per day. However, daily calorie requirements can vary based on several factors, including your weight, height, age, and physical activity levels.

6. Fats

The previous nutrition facts label listed the number of calories from fat in every serving. Along with the total grams of fat mentioned on the label, this was initially used to help consumers evaluate the quantity of fat in a product relative to other nutrients like protein and carbs.

On the updated nutrition facts label, the number of calories from fat has been removed completely. This is because studies generally show that the type of fat consumed may be more important than the amount.

The total quantity of fat and the grams of saturated and trans fats are still listed on the new label.

7. Micronutrients

The old nutrition facts label mentioned various important minerals and vitamins, including iron, calcium, and vitamins C and A. However, vitamins C and A are no longer needed to be listed on the updated nutrition facts label.

These vitamins are present in a range of food sources, and deficiencies in these micronutrients are uncommon. On the other hand, iron and calcium are still listed.

Calcium is a crucial mineral that performs a critical role in bone health. A calcium deficiency may lead to osteoporosis, which causes bones to become brittle and weak.

Meanwhile, not getting adequate iron in your diet can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, a condition linked with symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Women, children, infants, and people following a vegetarian or vegan diet may be at a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia.

8. Daily Values

The DV (Daily Value) is the prescribed amount of a particular nutrient that you should consume daily.

The Daily Value has changed for several nutrients, including potassium, fiber,  and calcium, and the updated nutrition facts label will be modified to reflect these changes

9. Footnote

The footnote at the base of the nutrition facts label has been modified to elucidate the percent Daily Value more lucidly. The new footnote explains that the percent Daily Value tells us how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to our daily diet.

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

The updated label also notes that the recommendation for 2,000 calories per day is used for general nutrition advice. The exact number of nutrients and the number of calories you require per day can vary based on an array of factors, including our body size, age,  health status, and activity level.

Other considerations

The updated nutrition facts label is intended to help offer consumers the information they need to make healthy dietary choices.

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

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

Bottom Line

The nutrition facts label was recently upgraded to help consumers make smart decisions regarding their diet. Some of the crucial changes include specifying the amount of added sugar, modifying which micronutrients are listed, streamlining its design, and updating serving sizes.

As experts learn more about how nutrition can affect health in the long run, the nutrition facts label should be updated accordingly.

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