Those Updated Nutrition Labels On All Your Packaged Food Are Finally Happening

Image courtesy of Dan Domme

It’s something most of us learned to do decades ago: you see an inviting package on the supermarket shelf. You pick it up, have a look at the front to see if you might like that flavor, and then flip it over to stare intently at the familiar white nutrition label on the back. Well now, finally, after much hemming and hawing, those nutrition labels are getting an overdue upgrade.

The changes look a lot like the proposal the FDA unveiled more than two years ago, in Feb. 2014. But rules don’t change immediately, by fiat; the agency had to go through a whole long process of proposal, comment, and approval in order to make the change.

So what’s going to be different? The white box you’re used to will look pretty similar to the way it has, but some of the contents are going to change, especially when it comes to serving size. Some highlights include:

  • The number of calories per serving will be a BIG, bold number that you can’t easily miss.
  • Serving sizes are going to have to shift to be more similar to portions actual human people really eat. (When’s the last time you had a measured half-cup of breakfast cereal in a measured half-cup of milk?)
  • Some line items that only listed contents in percentages [of daily recommended value] before will now actually include real quantity measurements, in grams.
  • Items you might consume in a single sitting even if they’re more than one serving, like your classic pint of breakup ice cream, will have to show both the per-serving and per-container values.
  • Single-serve but theoretically multi-serving containers, like 20 oz sodas, will just have to list the numbers for the whole bottle as one serving because let’s be real, people don’t usually share or save half for tomorrow.
  • Some of the recommended daily value numbers have been tweaked, because the science on how much you should or shouldn’t have has been updated.

In short, the FDA says, your new labels are going to look a lot like this:

The full text of the newly updated rules regarding both serving sizes and nutrition will be posted to the Federal Register soon.

Meanwhile, it might still take a while for you to get used to seeing the new label out in the wild; the deadline for manufacturers to get it in use is July 26, 2018.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.