Will the New Food Label Be the Gut Check That Motivates Consumer and Industry Changes?
National Nutrition Month, sponsored every March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, urges consumers to start “Eating Right, Bite by Bite.” This is a useful reminder as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s revised food label rolls out and offers us new tools to make informed food choices for ourselves and our families.
But the FDA wants more than just better-informed consumers—it hopes to alter behavior and slow the rising rates of diet-related chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. The label changes are a regulatory reality check intended to nudge consumers and industry toward healthier options.
What are the notable label changes?
- Larger serving sizes: Many popular foods (soft drinks, ice cream, bagels, cereal) now display larger serving sizes to better reflect the portions that Americans actually consume. A larger serving size means a higher calorie count and added sugar value. For example, the serving size for ice cream has grown from one-half cup to two-thirds cup.
- Bolder and bigger font: The number of calories is bolded and in a larger font that makes it hard to miss
- Dual-Column labeling: Packages that contain between two to three servings, which could reasonably be eaten in one sitting (e.g., a pint of ice cream), must list the calories and nutrients for the entire pint and for one serving. No more math needed.
- Calories from fat are gone: This update leaves the overall calorie count with a row to itself. The FDA wants us to focus on the type of fat, not the calories from fat.
- Added sugars now disclosed: FDA also set a 50-gram Daily Value. Look for added sugars information to be especially impactful. Consumers say this is what they look for most on the label, and many also want to know if sugars are added in processing or occur naturally. Demand for products with lower amounts may incentivize a “race to the bottom” by industry.
While food manufacturers have through June 2020 to fully implement the new labels on all products, you may have already seen the new labels on some of your go-to products in stores.
So, the next time you’re choosing a snack—or consider eating that entire pint of ice cream—the new label may catch your eye. It’s improved, thanks to the FDA, and it may even change your mind.