The Nutrition Facts: Food Label Confusion

by Reuben Malz

 

Food labels are confusing plain and simple! Everyone knows it,
but no one knows exactly how, to fix it.

The Nutrition Facts label, introduced 20 years ago, was designed to help consumers make informed food choices and maintain healthy dietary practices. The reality, however, is a quagmire of confusing and misleading food labels and an alarming rate of obesity that has more than doubled in the United States and is now rampant in countries including Australia, UK and Canada.

Unless you work in the industry, it is very difficult to decipher food labels accurately. Further complicating this is a recent study on consumer behavior indicating the average consumer will spend less than 8 seconds scanning a food label and the nutritional facts.

With all of this confusion, debate and conflict over the last two decades, the FDA recently passed an initiative to revamp food labels.

 

The new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods

 

As of May, 2016, the new Nutrition Facts label includes the following:

  • An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings,” two important elements in making informed food choices.
  • Requirements that serving sizes more closely reflect the amount of food that people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the last serving size requirements were published in 1993. By law, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act requires that serving sizes be based on what people actually eat.
  • Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to a product. It is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars, which is supported by scientific evidence in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per container” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples include a pint of ice cream and a 3-ounce bag of chips. With dual-column labels available, people will be able to understand easily how many calories and the nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.
  • For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
  • Updated daily values for nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the %DV that manufacturers include on the label.
  • Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount in addition to the %DV. These are nutrients that some people are not getting enough of which puts them at a higher risk for chronic disease. The %DV for calcium and iron will continue to be required along with the actual gram amount. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins is rare although these nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.
  • “Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows that the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.
  • An abbreviated footnote to better explain the %DV.

 

For food manufacturers, compliance with this new regulation will be a challenging task as all SKU’s will be required to be changed by July 26, 2018.

The United States is one of over 30+ countries worldwide now passing new food label regulations. Food manufacturers exporting their products will also be required to update all of their SKU’s to respond to the new landscape of global food labeling.

For more information on the GlobalVision Quality Control Platform and how we can help with your food labeling compliance requirements, please visit www.globalvisioninc.com or email: info@globalvisioninc.com. For more information on the FDA Nutrition Facts Label, please visit: FDA

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