Consumers may get a little more information about the foods they buy, thanks to a nutrition label update proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The supplemental proposed rule, made public in July, updates the Nutrition Facts label proposed last year in March, under which the FDA proposed that food companies include added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label. The July update supplements that original March 2014 proposed rule on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which summarized scientific data related to added sugars. The proposed label would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes, and would put calorie counts in large type.
“The FDA has a responsibility to give consumers the information they need to make informed dietary decisions for themselves and their families,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, as said in the agency’s release. “For the past decade, consumers have been advised to reduce their intake of added sugars, and the proposed percent daily value for added sugars on the Nutrition Facts label is intended to help consumers follow that advice.”
The proposed update reflects new dietary recommendations, consensus reports, and national survey data, such as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrient intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The FDA also considered extensive input and comments from a wide range of stakeholders. The information incorporates data supported by newly reviewed studies that suggest healthy dietary patterns, including lower amounts of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, are strongly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. When sugars are added to foods and beverages to sweeten them, they add calories without providing additional nutrients.
The proposed rule would significantly update nutrition information on food labels, which the federal government began requiring in the early 1990’s, that were based on eating habits and nutrition data from the 1970s and ‘80s. The label has not changed significantly since 2006, when information on trans fat had to be declared on the label, prompting manufacturers to reduce partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fat, in many of their products.
The FDA is also proposing to change the current footnote on the Nutrition Facts label to help consumers understand the percent daily value concept. The current label requires the percent daily value be listed for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, calcium and iron. The percent daily value indicates how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet and would help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families. The percent daily value would be based on the recommendation that the daily intake of calories from added sugars not exceed 10 percent of total calories.
“For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.”
The changes proposed affect all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.