FDA’s New Nutrition Label Emphasizes Calories, Serving Size, Added Sugars

newlabelsEarlier today, the FDA finally got around to unveiling the first major change to food nutrition labels in two decades. The new-look label contains mostly the same information as the current version, but with the addition of “added sugars” data, the loss of “calories from fat,” and more emphasis on total calories per serving and servings per container.

As you can see from the side-by-side example above, the two biggest changes — aside from flipping the percentages to the left of the column — are the increased prominence of the calories and the much larger and bolder information regarding servings per container. Additionally, nutritional info that is currently listed as “Amount Per Serving,” will have the actual serving size listed. In the above example, you can see that the proposed label now says “Amount per 2/3 cup,” as a further reminder that 2/3 of a cup is the serving size for this product.

An update that is not as immediately noticeable is the inclusion of an “added sugars” line. The FDA says this was important to include in the label because Americans eat 16% of their daily calories from sugars added during food production.

Meanwhile, the FDA is proposing to get rid of the “calories from fat” info.

“We know that the type of fat is more important than the total amount of fat,” says FDA scientist Claudine Kavanaugh about this change.

A non-cosmetic change to the labels, but one that would impact the data that appears on the nutrition panel, is the FDA’s proposal to update serving size requirements to reflect what people actually eat, not what they should be eating.

For example, a pint of ice cream is currently listed as 4 servings. The FDA proposes changing that to two servings per container.

One final new requirement is the inclusion of Vitamin D and potassium information on each label, as part of an effort to increase public awareness of how littel of each of these nutrients consumers are getting. Vitamin D is to be included because of its importance in bone health, especially among women and the elderly, while potassium helps to lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension.

Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label [FDA.gov]

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  1. oomingmak says:

    While I think the type of information being presented is an improvement the new layout is decidedly NOT an improvement over the old design. It’s more cluttered and considerably harder to read.

    Seems like a case of change for change sake. I’ve sat on enough design panels to know that most version 2.0 redesigns are often just discarded ideas from the version 1.0 design sessions.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      I agree, and I went to school for stuff like this. I think it’s not so much change for change’s sake, but the people who design these things see them SO OFTEN that they don’t see it the way the public does. I can tell you that part of the issue is that people are used to the old design, so slowing them down by rearranging things likely means that many people will pay less attention to the nutrition information for a while. But that aside, having the row labels first is critical. People expect the first entry on a row of a table to define the row. They’ve moved “Total Fat” from the first thing on that line, now it’s the percentage, which is useless without knowing what it is. They’ve broken the typical table layout by not keeping the label or header first in the row.

    • MathManv2point0 says:

      I’m with you on this not being an improvement. To me, it looks like the proposed layout gives even less information than the current. I want to know calories from fat. I’m not always going to remember that 1g fat ~ 5 calories.

      Also, I hear you in that the proposed is harder to read. Most of the schedules I put together have the description of the item on the left and the quantitative information on the right.

      • PhillyDom says:

        I’m not always going to remember that 1g fat ~ 5 calories.

        Good, because one gram of fat equals nine calories.

        • MathManv2point0 says:

          I THOUGHT something was off in the example on the current label! In the example above there are 8g of fat but only “40 calories from fat”. Is it 4 and 4 for protein and carbs and 8 for fat?

          In fact… if I do the MATH (37g of carbs + 4 g of protein) * 4 cal / g = 164 calories

          230 calories – 164 calories = 66 calories

          8 grams of fat * 9 calories / gram = 72 calories so…. it’s pretty close. YAY MATH!!

  2. FusioptimaSX says:

    From a human factors perspective, someone people may be prone to just adding up all the Daily Values on the left, thinking that for the day it should total 100%, instead of 100% for each individual item.

    BTW, how did Dietary Fiber go from %16% to 14% while remaining at 4g? (Real answer, I know the amount are negligible and based upon the individual, but I was just pointing out this numerical inconsistency for the purposes of this example.)