The FDA Just Announced Major Changes to Food Nutrition Labels

Aside from common sense (i.e. knowing the general nutritional content differences between potato chips and a green smoothie), we rely on the Food and Drug Administration's monitored nutrition labels to know the exact content of the food we eat. Whether it's emblazoned on the side of the box of our favorite protein bars or on the bottom of a pre-packaged quinoa bowl, we've become self-professed experts at quickly scanning through vitamin and mineral percentages and fat, protein, and carbohydrate amounts. It's the only way to truly avoid icky ingredients, like trans fat, added sugars, or high amounts of sodium. 

Well, according to a new announcement from the FDA, those familiar nutrition labels are about to look very different. In a consumer updates report, the FDA revealed the new design and mandatory content for all upcoming food labels. Keep scrolling to get all the details. 

Woman holding a brown bag of groceries
Javier Díez / Stocksy

According to the report, the reasoning behind the label change is to "help you make better-informed choices about the foods you and your family eat and help you maintain a healthy diet." It's based on updated scientific information and changing dietary habits in the U.S.

As for the latter, FDA labels are required to reflect realistic serving sizes, which might explain why it's time for a nutritional makeover. After all, it has happened many a time where I've gone to eat a handful of chips or crackers, checked the serving size, and seen that it's a meager 3 what world is that realistic? "FDA is required to base serving sizes on what people actually eat and drink, so serving size requirements have been adjusted to reflect more recent consumption data. This way, the nutrition information provided for each serving is more realistic. For certain packages that contain more than one serving, you will see nutrition information per serving as well as per package. That means for a pint of ice cream, calories and nutrients are listed for one serving and the whole container," the report reads. 

The report also notes that "nearly 40 percent of American adults are obese, and obesity is associated with heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes," which is why it was time to change nutrition labels in order to make unhealthy ingredients easier to spot and avoid. 

Original and new nutrition labels side by side comparison
Food and Drug Administration

Here's a side-by-side image demonstrating the differences between the current label and the new one, which will be required for all manufacturers to use by 2021. First up, the serving size, number of servings, and calorie amount are bigger and bolder. This makes it easier to spot for people who may be watching their weight, counting calories, or simply trying to cut down on portion size. 

Next, you may notice that added sugars are listed, while calories from fat aren't. That's because "because research shows the type of fat consumed is more important than total fats. For example, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in most vegetable oils and nuts, can reduce the risk of developing heart disease when eaten in place of saturated and trans fat." In other words, avocados and olive oil have natural fat, but that doesn't mean they're unhealthy. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

Finally, the old label lists percentages of vitamin A and C, while the new one replaces those with vitamin D and potassium, since "Americans today do not always get the recommended amounts of these nutrients. Conversely, Vitamins A and C are no longer required, because deficiencies in these vitamins are rare today, but they can be listed by manufacturers voluntarily."

As mentioned before, you can expect the current labels to become totally replaced by the new by 2021. To get all the details, and learn more about the FDA's reasoning behind this change, head over to the full consumer report


Related Stories