Will the new food labels help consumers like you find more healthful foods? Let’s first find out what the FDA plans to change. The proposed updates include:
1. Serving Size Requirements
The serving size would be updated to reflect the amounts of food people are actually eating and drinking. For example it would require that packaged foods, including drinks, that are typically consumed in one sitting be labeled as a single serving. It would also allow for certain packages that are larger and could potentially be consumed in one sitting or multiple sitting to have dual columns. One column to indicate per serving and another column to indicate per package.
The format of the label would be updated, with key information like calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value becoming more visible. The daily value would move to the left of the label- so it would appear first. The foot note for what daily value would also be updated to have a clearer explanation.
3. Added Sugars
The new label would require information about “added sugar”. Right now the label provides information about sugar, which combines added sugar and naturally occurring sugar. For me I am more concerned about added sugar in our diet.
4. Calories from Fat
The calories from fat would be removed- because research shows that type of fat is more important than the amount.
5. Update to Daily Value
The label would have updated values for nutrients including sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D. It would also require information about potassium and vitamin D as these are nutrients of public health significance. Calcium and iron would continue to be required but vitamin A, and vitamin C would become voluntary.
So will the new food label be helpful? Will consumers be able to find healthful foods?
There have been quite a bit of research around this topic. Let me distill it down for you. According to The International Food Information Council (IFIC) surveys most consumers appear to be interested in eating healthfully and looking at food labels for information. Updating the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) to help consumers make healthful decisions is worth the work. The NFP has not been reexamined in two decades and much has been changed in the field of nutrition science. And really in order for this to work health professionals like me have to play a key role in educating and empowering the public to make informed food choices.