20 years after standardizing and making mandatory on nutritional labeling packaged food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has unveiled new updated standards for required nutritional information label. This is its first update since 2006, with the addition of trans fats.
Experts say the new label will make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions about their health and the foods they eat. The updated panel is to take effect in two years.
For the first time, the label requires the inclusion of how much sugar has been added during processing or preparation. The label will also suggest a daily value of sugar a person should be eating, similar to what has been included for carbohydrates, fats, and sodium.
The proposed definition of added sugars was as follows:
In proposed § 101.9(c)(6)((iii), we are proposing to define “added sugars” as sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), syrups, naturally occurring sugars that are isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component (e.g., fruit juice concentrates), and other caloric sweeteners.
Taylor Newhouse, a registered dietitian with the Health Science Center School of Public Health at Texas A&M University, says:
“Many foods have some amount of natural sugar in them. Chocolate milk has the natural sugar lactose in it, but it will also have added sugar from the chocolate. Choosing food items that have more natural sugar rather than added sugar is always best, and choosing items that have the lowest ‘total sugar’ amount is the way to go.
We are a country that is inundated with sugar, and a culture that has a large focus on fast, easily accessible items because we are so busy. I think the new added sugar line, paired with other changes such as the larger font for calories and updated portion sizes, will aid individuals who wish to make a more healthful choice.”
Information on amounts of Vitamin D and Potassium are also now mandatory labels, and Vitamins A and C are no longer mandatory to include.
The updated panel will also highlight “calories,” “servings per container,” and “serving size” by increasing the type size and placing the number of calories and serving size declaration in bold type. Serving sizes and product packaging are now more reflective of the typical American diet, which may lessen the overconsumption of extra and empty calories.
For example, the FDA now says both 12 oz and 20 oz bottles will equal one serving, and the packaging will follow the corresponding nutritional information for each individual size—since people normally drink both sizes in one setting.
“When an individual is conscious of their portion sizes, eating in America is hard. All of our portion sizes are huge,” Newhouse says. “When following the portion size of the food item on the now outdated nutrition facts panel, the portion size is often much smaller than what the typical American eats. This may leave the consumer still feeling hungry and cause overindulgence later as a result of what we jokingly refer to as ‘hangry.”
Other notable changes include requiring manufacturers to declare both the percent daily value and actual amount of mandatory vitamins and minerals, and changing the footnote to better explain what percent daily value means. As defined by the new guidelines, the percent daily value tells you how much a nutrient in serving of food contributes to a daily diet.
Many nutrition conscious consumers would have liked to see trans fat labeled more accurately, instead of to the nearest gram. However, when the FDA does testing to see if products are compliant with labeling requirements, the company cannot be more than 10% off on their measurements.
To label to the nearest 0.1 grams would mean that the FDA would have to be capable of accurately measuring to the nearest 0.01 grams, even for products that contain 0.1 grams. Accuracy to this degree when starting with a raw food product is, if not scientifically impossible, then extremely time consuming and expensive, as chemically separating trans fats from cis fats is difficult.
The panel will also have updated daily values to reflect current science.
What do you think. Will this new labeling have an effect on obesity rates? Or is it a waste of taxpayer money?