Take a look at any food label. Check out the back panel entitled “Nutrition Facts”. It should look similar to the image on the left. Take a look at the total carbohydrate. In this sample, the total carbs is 37g, with 4g of dietary fiber, and 1g of sugar. That leaves 32g of carbohydrates unaccounted for! What are those carbs you might wonder? Well, a majority of them are added sugars.
On May 20, 2016 the FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts label final rule for packaged foods. It was the first major update, and regulation, to the nutrition facts label in 20 years. The FDA’s regulation targeted sugars, in particular “added sugars”, and provided a major update to the amount of nutrients people customarily consume. Additionally, the nutrition facts label received a face lift.
Total Sugars and Added Sugars
Total Sugars, Sugars, and Added Sugars, what’s the difference? Total sugars will be replacing the declaration of sugars in the label. Total sugars include all sugars present in the food product, including added sugars. Sugars include the sugar content of the main ingredients. For example, if you have a juice, sugars represent the sugar level in the fruit added to the juice. Added sugars are either added during the processing of foods, or when packaged. Food manufacturers utilize added sugars to make products sweeter or to include a specific flavor.
The FDA explained in the announcement of their final rule, that based on scientific data they reviewed, Americans are consuming too many added sugars. The Wall Street Journal reported that “a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, for instance, contains about 130% of the daily recommended maximum for added sugar.” Therefore, in order to raise awareness, the FDA has required the inclusion of added sugars in the nutrition facts label.
Recordkeeping of Added Sugars
In addition to the declaration of added sugars, the FDA now requires the manufacturer to make and keep written records that verify the declared amount of all nutrients on the label, including added sugars. These records must be kept for a period of at least 2 years after the product enters the market. Additionally, manufacturers should be mindful that when there is a mixture of nutrients, they still need to keep records of both nutrients involved in the making of the product, and not just the nutrients in the final product.
The FDA updated the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC). This update is meant to reflect what Americans actually consume on average, instead of what they should be consuming when it comes to serving size. The FDA changed what constitutes a single serving size. If the product is usually consumed in one go, then the product will be treated as a single serving, and the nutrient facts label should reflect that. However, the manufacturer may choose to use a dual label system reflecting the information in the whole container, and the information of a single serving size in accordance to the RACC. Additionally, if the container can be eaten in one sitting, even though it contains 2-3 serving sizes, the manufacturer is required to use the dual label system.
Speaking of size, the minimum font sizes on the nutrition facts have been increased. Additionally, the font size for the numeric values have also been increased. One example is the font size for the “calories” numeric value received a major increase, and can now be as big as the “Nutrition Facts” statement (which used to be the largest font size on the label).
How Much Should People Be Eating?
The Daily Reference Values (DRV) for calories update accounted for the addition of added sugars and removal of potassium. The FDA also updated the Dietary Reference Intake (RDI) for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients similar to the DRV update for calories. Another important update by the FDA was the vitamins required to be stated on the nutrition facts label. Vitamins D and potassium are now required on the label, while vitamins A and C are no longer required, and can be stated voluntarily.
Other important changes made by the FDA are regarding the definition of infants and children under the age of four. The FDA now uses infant through 12 months, and children ages 1 through 3. The FDA has also removed statements about calories from fat, and the values of the entire container at the bottom. Another noticeable change was made in regards to the language on the footnote at the bottom of the label.
Manufacturers will have until July 26, 2018 to comply with the final requirements, and manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to make the changes.
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