Take a look at any food label. Check out the back panel entitled, “Nutrition Facts”. It should look similar to the image on the left. Take a look at the total carbohydrate. In this sample, the total carbs is 37g, with 4g of dietary fiber, and 1g of sugar. That leaves 32g of carbohydrates unaccounted for! What are those carbs you might wonder? Well, a majority of them are added sugars.
On May 20, 2016 the FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts label final rule for packaged foods. It was the first major update, and regulation, to the nutrition facts label in 20 years. The FDA’s regulation targeted sugars, in particular “added sugars”, and provided a major update to the amount of nutrients people customarily consume. Additionally, the nutrition facts label received a face lift.
Total Sugars and Added Sugars
Sugars, Total Sugars, and Added Sugars, what’s the difference? Total sugars will be replacing the declaration of sugars in the label. Total sugars include all sugars present in the food product, including added sugars. Sugars include the sugar content of the main ingredients. For example, if you have a juice, sugars represent the sugar level in the fruit added to the juice. Added Sugars are included during the processing of foods or when packaged. Food manufacturers utilize added sugars to make products sweeter or to include a specific flavor.
The FDA explained in the announcement of their final rule, that based on scientific data they reviewed, Americans are consuming too many added sugars. The Wall Street Journal reported that “a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, for instance, contains about 130% of the daily recommended maximum for added sugar.” Therefore, in order to raise awareness, the FDA has required the inclusion of added sugars in the nutrition facts label.
Recordkeeping of Added Sugars
In addition to the declaration of added sugars, the FDA now requires the manufacturer to make and keep written records that verify the declared amount of all nutrients on the label, including added sugars. These records must be kept for a period of at least 2 years after the product enters the market. Additionally, manufacturers should be mindful that when there is a mixture of nutrients, they still need to keep records of both nutrients involved in the making of the product, and not just the nutrients in the final product.
The FDA updated the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC). This update is meant to reflect what Americans actually consume on average, instead of what they should be consuming when it comes to serving size. The FDA changed what constitutes a single serving size. If the product is usually consumed at once, then the product will be treated as a single serving. The new rule requires the the nutrient facts label should reflect the single serving size. However, a manufacturer may choose to use a dual label system reflecting the information in the whole container, and information of a single serving size in accordance to the RACC. Additionally, a manufacturer is required to use the dual label system, if the container contains 2-3 serving sizes, but can be eaten in one sitting.
Speaking of size, the minimum font sizes on the nutrition facts have been increased. Additionally, the font size for the numeric values have also been increased. One example is the font size for the “calories” numeric value received a major increase, and can now be as big as the “Nutrition Facts” statement (which used to be the largest font size on the label).
How Much Should People Be Eating?
The Daily Reference Values (DRV) for calories update accounted for the addition of added sugars and removal of potassium. The FDA also updated the Dietary Reference Intake (RDI) for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients similar to the DRV update for calories. Vitamins listing have also changed under the new rule. Vitamin D and potassium are now required to be list on the label, and vitamins A and C can be voluntarily stated .
Other important changes made by the FDA are regarding the definition of infants and children under the age of four. The FDA now uses infant through 12 months, and children ages 1 through 3. The FDA has also removed statements about calories from fat, and the values of the entire container at the bottom. The language on the footnote at the bottom of the label is another noteworthy change.
On June 13, 2017, the FDA announced a deadline extension for food companies to bring the product’s labeling into compliance with the new Nutrition Facts Label. After industry and consumer groups provided feedback to the FDA regarding the original deadlines, FDA decided to pushed back compliance dates. According to FDA, it will provide helpful guidance to companies to use when completing the required changes in product labeling. The extension period will “give industry more time and decrease costs, balanced, with the importance of minimizing the transition period during which consumers will see both the old and the new versions of the label in the market place.” Originally, large companies had until July 26, 2018 to comply with the final requirements, and smaller companies with less than $10 million in annual food sales were given additional year to make the changes. The FDA has not issued the new compliance dates, instead the Agency published a statement claiming it will provide details “at a later time.” We will keep our readers informed of the new compliance dates once publicized by the FDA.
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