Nutrition Facts Panel Puts Spotlight on Added Sugar
It’s been more than 20 years since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the Nutrition Facts Panel on packaged foods a major retread; the current one was long overdue, say nutrition experts.
Among numerous changes, the revamp includes a line disclosing “added sugars,” along with a corresponding % Daily Value—based on a limit of 50 grams (roughly 12 teaspoons) of added sugar toward the daily 2,000 calories recommended for most adults. Average Americans consume an estimated 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, most of which comes from processed and prepared foods.
Until now, it has fallen to consumers to scan ingredients and determine how much sugar is added. The release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines included a recommendation to limit added-sugar intake to less than 10% of daily calories; and the new panel puts this into practice. Once implemented, consumers will have a clear way to see how much added sugar they are consuming in comparison to the suggested limit for a day.
Other Label Changes
- A new design puts greater visual emphasis on calories.
- The “calories from fat” reference has been removed. This reflects the new understanding that saturated and trans fats increase the risk of heart disease, while polyunsaturated fats and oils can reduce that risk. However, “Total Fat” is still featured, in tandem with a % Daily Value that assumes a limit of about 35% of daily calories.
- Declarations for vitamins A and C, of which most Americans get plenty, are now voluntary.
- Declarations for potassium and vitamin D are now mandatory.
- The Daily Value for sodium has been lowered slightly, from < 2,400 milligrams per day to < 2,300 mg per day.
- Serving sizes will now reflect amounts typically consumed. For example, the serving size for ice cream will be two-thirds of a cup instead of half a cup, and labels will show proportionately increased calories, saturated fat, added sugars and so on. The serving size for soft drinks will increase from 8 ounces to 12 ounces. The serving size for bagels, toaster pastries and muffins (except English muffins) will increase from 2 ounces to 4 ounces. And single-serving packages of foods that weigh up to (but not quite) twice the standard serving size will be considered just one serving. Hence, a 20-ounce bottle of soda will have to be labeled as one serving.
- “Dual Column” labels will indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for food products that could be consumed in one or multiple sittings, such as pints of ice cream or bags of chips. This update is designed to clearly inform individuals what they are consuming when they eat or drink the entire product at one time.
Most food manufacturers will be required to use the new label by July 26, 2018. For a comprehensive list of label changes, go to www.fda.gov.