There’s a new nutrition facts label coming to town… and certain members of the food industry are NOT happy about it. Ever since the FDA announced two years ago that it was proposing changes to the label, food associations including the American Bakers Association, the Corn Refiners Association, and the National Confectioners Association, have argued against the updates. Unsurprisingly, one of the most notable changes to the label highlights the sugar content: the new labels will detail the added sugars in each product and what percentage of the daily recommended intake of sugar the added sugar comprises. Read on for additional changes and why this new label is arriving at a crucial time of mounting health crises in the U.S.A.
Image of old and new nutrition fact labels © FDA
Since many people only take the time to glance at the nutrition labels (if they look at them at all), the new labels will feature serving sizes and calories per serving in larger, bolder type. Updated daily values are included for elements such as fat and sodium, and the actual amounts of certain vitamins and minerals (such as calcium and Vitamin D) will also go on the label in addition to the percentages of daily value. The new labels will also take into account serving sizes that more accurately reflect what people actually eat as opposed to what is recommended (i.e. since the “true” serving sizes of foods such as pasta, chips, and ice cream is typically much smaller than people generally assume). Sugar, which when consumed in excess has been linked to diabetes and obesity as well as a variety of other health issues, can be confusing to understand on the typical nutrition label, especially for products which contain ingredients such as fruit, which can naturally have a high sugar content, but which operates differently in the body when digested than processed, refined, and/or added sugars. According to recent market research of 54 countries around the world, people in the U.S. consume an average of 126 grams of sugar per day, the highest number of all the countries studied and more than twice what is recommended by WHO for daily intake. The new labels will help illustrate the outrageous amounts of added sugars people probably don’t even realize that they are consuming. For example, the nutrition label on one can of Pepsi will reveal that it has 138% of the Daily Value for added sugars.
The old labels have been around for twenty years, which is plenty enough time for lots of food fads to come and go. Despite opposition from many food association groups, this measure represents a big victory among health and nutrition awareness advocates as well as Michelle Obama, who has encouraged Americans to consume a healthy diet and to get more exercise in her efforts as First Lady. Let’s hope that the new labels aren’t all for naught and that they effectively grab consumers’ attention as they are choosing the foods and beverages that are going into their bodies and the bodies of their family members. Manufacturers are required to make the change to the new labels by the end of July 2018.
Lead video via The Washington Post