Major news this morning! The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has just published a press release, announcing the first substantial changes to nutrition labels since the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990:
“For the past 3 years we have been assessing changes to the nutrition facts panel to address such factors as current nutrient recommendations, public health concerns based on recent data on food consumption, and the agency’s desire to make this information as clear and useful as possible,” said Paula Trumbo, Ph.D., acting director of FDA’s nutrition program.
FDA has identified several areas for improvement including sugar information, portion sizes, standardized front of pack nutrition labels, and information on genetically modified ingredients. “I am pleased to announce these updates and hope that their implementation will provide consumers better tools to make healthier food choices,” Trumbo continued.
“The label is all about the attributes of the food,” says Felicia Billingslea, M.S., director of FDA’s food labeling and standard staff. “It’s not to say that this is a good food or a bad food. It provides information that consumers can use and rely upon in developing healthful diets for themselves.” Read more…
Here are the key changes as we understand them:
1. GMO labeling will be required on all products by January 1, 2017. A product will need to bear a GMO label if over 10% of its net weight comes from ingredients that are genetically modified. While this is not ideal, it is a start. Potato Chips made with soybean oil will be labeled because the oil accounts for about 30% of the weight of the chips. But chocolate candy with GMO soy lecithin will not. .
2. Sugar information. Sugar will finally be given a daily reference intake (DRI) value. If you look at nutrition labels, you’ll notice that salt has a daily value, and so do fat and saturated fat. It’s about time sugar did as well. The value is 125 grams, which is what most health organizations consider the daily maximum.
Another changes is the separation of sugar into 2 lines on the nutrition label – Added sugars will be listed right below the Sugars line.
3. Portion size information. As you know, many products boast low calorie counts because they state very small serving sizes. A new requirement is that all products in packages that may be consumed by an individual in a “single consumption event” will need to include 2 columns of nutrition data, one for a single serving, and the other for a portion as consumed. This is really important because you may be buying a small bag of Doritos with only 150 calories per serving, but as you wolf down the tortillas in the small bag, you will actually be eating about 400 calories worth in 2.5 servings.
4. Front of pack labeling will be limited to the following information: Calories per serving together with TOTAL calories per package, Sodium, and sugar. Since there is almost no upside to this type of label, we estimate that most manufacturers will not use it.
Bottom line: These changes are very promising. They will take effect January 1, 2016, except for the GMO info, which manufacturers argued would require more time to implement (Jan 1, 2017). We’ve seen in the past that label changes led to reformulations of products and are cautiously optimistic. Trans fat consumption in the US dropped by 60% after companies were required to provide trans-fat content on the label.
This is just too good to be true. So look at today’s date. Now look at this post. Now back to the date. Now back to this post…Aprils fools! But wouldn’t it be nice if some these changes were actually implemented the next time the FDA changes the nutrition panel?