Changes Coming to Food Labels

During the next year you might see a new look for the Nutrition Facts food label on packaged foods.  Dietitians have been eagerly awaiting some of the new changes that might help buyers make healthier food choices.

Some foods have already been spotted with new label format and current FDA rules state companies have until July 2018 to use the new version.  Now it seems this could drag out another few years, as the Grocery Manufacturers Association and various other food industry trade and lobbying groups have requested a delay until 2021 stating cost barriers.

Fun fact: Food labels as we know them first appeared on items in the United States in 1993 and have had no major revisions in over 20 years!

Changes are outlined in detail on the FDA website and the image here from the FDA highlights what will be different.

Spotlight on the Sweet Stuff

One very helpful change is the addition of “Added Sugars” under the Total Carbohydrate category.

  • Research continues to highlight the health risks of high sugar intake with regard to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease as well as weight management.
  • The US Dietary Guidelines and many expert groups such as American Heart Association recommend limiting calories from sugars. The FDA used a guideline of up to 50 grams of added sugars daily for ages 4 to adult (up 25 grams added sugars for ages 1-3).  These numbers are different from the Heart Association guidelines of 24-36 grams of added sugars daily.
  • Added sugars are defined as: sugars that are added in processing or packaging including sugars, syrup, honey and concentrated juice. Natural sugars in fruit products and 100% fruit juice is not considered “added sugar” but will count as part of total sugars.
  • Companies may have to change their label claims such as “no added sugar” or they may change recipes in order to keep their claims.

Complicated for Food Manufacturers

You may see a mixture of “old” and “new” food labels in the next few years.  Food companies need to decide whether to start calculating and printing the new version now or wait for final ruling on the new food labeling date.  The proposed label changes are good for the public but complex and costly for companies, as evidenced by the push-back and requested delay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *