After more than 20 years, nutrition labels in the U.S. are getting a makeover. That’s thanks to a new directive from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will require significant changes to the labels that appear on packaged foods. The nutrition facts are meant to serve as a window into a food’s healthfulness, and 77% of Americans say they read them, but they can be misleading or confusing. In 2018, food companies will have to single out added sugars–sweeteners added to foods, as opposed to those that occur naturally, like those in fruit. They’ll also have to bump up the size of the type that lists the total number of calories, and tweak serving sizes to be more in line with how much people are likely to eat in one sitting. “It will be easier for shoppers to tell how much sugar is in food and ought to encourage food companies to reduce the amounts,” says Marion Nestle, a nutrition expert at New York University. “These changes are cause for celebration.”
In with the new:
The box pictured at right is an example of a current nutrition label on cereal. Here are some of the big changes.
The total number of calories will increase from around an 8-point font size to at least a 22-point font size, and be bolded.
CHANGES IN NUTRIENT DETAILS
The label will include certain nutrients that Americans are typically lacking, such as vitamin D and potassium. Vitamins A and C can also be added to the label voluntarily.
Some serving sizes have gotten bigger since the original labels were created. For example, a serving of ice cream is changing from ½ cup to 2/3 cup.
The FDA says people get about 13% of their daily calories from added sugars, often in sugary drinks. The new label will give a more accurate picture of sweeteners added during manufacturing.
A NEW FOOTNOTE
It will clarify where the percent values come from, to read, “The Percent Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. Two thousand calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”
DAILY VALUE UPDATES
The percentages of recommended daily amounts of nutrients like fiber and sodium will be updated to reflect the latest scientific evidence.
This appears in the June 06, 2016 issue of TIME.
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