For two decades it went unchanged. It was outdated, hard for some to understand. It wasn’t clear on some artificial things that food companies have been adding to our food lately. And now, despite the millions of dollars of lobbying major food companies and their associations have poured into the political system, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally released a new nutrition facts label.
Hallefreakinglujah. We desperately need a change. Something to shake up the system that has resulted in approximately one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of obese adult Americans (according to the CDC). That doesn’t even include the 17% of obese children. Obesity, which has been linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Bravo that the government was able to overcome the special interests hired by powerful and rich food companies that fought to keep the new “added sugars” line off of the label. Bravo that they were able to do what was right for everyday Americans and the future health and financial wellbeing of our country. And bravo to first lady Michelle Obama, who unveiled the new label and was a pivotal figure in the entire process.
We all want to be healthy. Who doesn’t? Now we have a label that will help us to make better decisions about the food we purchase for ourselves and our families.
So what’s different? Here are the highlights:
- Larger font size for calories, servings per container and the serving size declaration.
- Bolding the number of calories and the serving size to highlight the information.
- Manufacturers must declare the actual amount, in addition to the percent daily value, of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium.
- Added sugars, in grams as well as percent of daily value, will now be included in the label underneath the normal sugars measurement (sugars will be the total amount while added sugars will be indented to show that it is part of the total sugars measurement).
- While continuing to require total fat, saturated fat and trans fat on the label, calories from fat will be removed as research has shown that the type of fat is more important than the amount.
- Serving size measurements will also be updated. Law requires that serving sizes be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually consuming, not what they should be eating.
- As package size typically affects how much people eat, for packages that are between one and two servings, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically will consume the entire thing in one sitting.
- For certain products that are larger than one serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package/per unit” basis.
Manufacturers must comply with these new label requirements by July 26, 2018.
I gotta say, this is pretty awesome. Especially the new added sugars line. That is a BIG DEAL. Added sugar is everywhere, from canned beans to oatmeal to the tomato sauce you put on your pasta.
And how much sugar should we be eating? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that, for optimum health, we should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. How does that translate to what we see on a food label? Well, four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. So if we do the math right, 6 teaspoons a day equals 24 grams of sugar.
The average American consumes more than 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners per year. Case in point, recently my grandmother, bless her, showed me the Welch’s grape juice she loves to drink every morning. The label said “100% grape juice” with “no sugar added” and “2 servings of fruit”. Okay looks alright from the front, but what did the label say? Well, one serving (which is 8 ounces) contains 36 grams of sugar. One glass is more than the entire recommended daily intake of sugar for optimum health. Doesn’t matter whether it is “natural” sugar or added sweetener, our body processes it the same way.
Lordy. It just goes to show that no matter what the claims on the front, the label tells the entire story. I saw a great quote recently from nutritionist Ashley Koff, RD, which said about food packaging, “the front is everything they want you to hear; the back is the truth”. Read your labels folks. It is one of the keys to purchasing healthier, more wholesome food. Want a refresher? Check out my blog post on Food Label Reading 101 for some tips on what to look for.
Thankfully, with the announcement of this new and improved label, we are one step closer to conquering this unhealthy epidemic that has taken our nation by storm.
Published by Anna Young