The FDA has finally updated the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged food. The process only took 9 years and 943 pages (1, 2). The label changes reflect the goal of communicating the link between diet and chronic disease to consumers (3). In the image below, the current Nutrition Facts label is shown on the left and the new Nutrition Facts label is shown on the right.
Nutrition Fact Label Changes:
The main changes to the nutrition facts label include (3):
The FDA states that this change reflects updated information about nutrition science (3). The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests no more than 10% of calories should come from added sugars (4). The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 5% of total calories from added sugars. This means the AHA recommended intakes for added sugar are as follows (5):
One 12 ounce serving of soda has, on average, 23 grams of added sugar.
In the past, manufacturers were only required to list total grams of sugar. This would include naturally occurring sugar in plant food and lactose from milk, as well as added sugar. The consumer has been left to guess, or guesstimate, the amount of sugar added to a product.
Sugar Industry Exposed
Last year, Roberto Ferdman exposed the sugar industry in a Washington Post article. Documents, dating back to the 1950s, showed the industry’s use of political influence to skew government medical research on sugar’s role in the development of tooth decay (6). In addition, The American Beverage Association, spent almost $40 million in 2009 battling a possible federal tax on sugar sweetened drinks (6).
Not surprisingly, The Sugar Association expressed their disappointment of the ruling to require added sugars on the label, citing a lack of scientific justification. The association brazenly claimed that this unprecedented action by the FDA could “deter us from our shared goal of a healthier America” (7).
Most Americans Consume Too Much Added Sugar
As seen in the chart above, from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, most Americans are exceeding the recommended upper limit for added sugar (9). What might be most disturbing is the added sugar intake in young children. Evidence suggests that limiting added sugars, in conjunction with a healthy eating pattern, is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer (8). Most health organizations recommend limiting added sugar intake. More information on sugar.
Manufacturers will need to comply with the new Nutrition Facts panel regulations by July 26, 2018 (3).
Christine Dobrowolski is a nutritionist and whole-foods advocate.