Food and beverage packaging in this country has included a Nutrition Facts panel for nearly 25 years. Over 700,000 products have the labels which provide consumers with information like serving sizes, calories per serving, ingredients, and nutritional content.
Surveys indicate that 77 percent of all U.S. adults claim to use the labels at least some of the time. Whether the labels are actually useful is somewhat debatable. A couple of years ago, the FDA released a proposal to update the labels to make them more useful and to reflect more recent nutritional research. The new labels are finally going to be implemented and food manufacturers with annual sales exceeding $10 million have until January of 2020 to update their packaging with the new labels.
One of the biggest changes is that the “serving size” section of the label will be changed to more accurately reflect the actual portions consumed by the typical American. For example, a 20-ounce soft drink will now be labeled as a single serving because most people will drink the whole bottle in one sitting.
The new labels will no long list the amounts of Vitamin A and C, because recent research shows most Americans are not deficient in these nutrients. Instead, the amount of Vitamin D and potassium will be listed, two nutrients lacking in many diets. New labels will also show amounts of “added sugars”, defined as caloric sweeteners with no nutritional value. The new labels will also display the calories per serving in much large type making that piece of information far more noticeable.
There is surely more to be done to make food labeling more transparent and useful for consumers, but the new changes at least seem to be in the right direction.
Photo, posted September 9, 2014, courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr.