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Fast Facts About the FDA’s New Nutrition Label

Fast Facts About the FDA’s New Nutrition Label

The FDA’s updated nutrition label highlights calories, added sugars and required nutrients.

In May 2016, the FDA revealed a major overhaul of the nutrition label included on packaged foods—the largest update in more than two decades. The agency is requiring that the new labels be implemented by January 2020, but any manufacturers earning less than $10 million in annual sales are allowed an additional year to comply with the new rules.

The revamped labels, which were promoted by former first lady Michelle Obama, were originally scheduled to go into effect in July 2018, but the compliance date for these changes was extended. The updates require food manufacturers to print bold, clear calorie counts, more accurate serving sizes, added sugars and more on all nutritional labels.  

Here’s a breakdown of the FDA’s updates that will go into effect in January 2020:

More realistic serving sizes
Serving sizes have changed significantly in the decades since the original nutrition label was created. Upon implementation of the new label, serving sizes will more closely reflect what people actually eat—not what they should eat. For example, the current serving size on a pint of ice cream is one-half of a cup, but it’ll increase to two-thirds of a cup on the new labels—and the calorie count will reflect that increase, too.

Bold, clear calorie counts
Calorie counts will be printed in large, bold type to address public health concerns like heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and to help consumers make informed, healthier choices.  

Fats: quality, not quantity
“Calories from fat” will be removed from nutrition labels. Instead, total fat, saturated fat and trans-fat will continue to appear on labels. Research has shown the type of fat is more important to nutrition than the amount of fat. Unsaturated (or good) fats from avocados, flaxseed and salmon promote heart and brain health, and can lower cholesterol levels. On the other hand, saturated fat is considered to be “unhealthy fat” and can up your risk for heart disease.

“Added sugars” called out
Even so-called healthier foods like granola, yogurt and fat-free salad dressings may contain large amounts of added sugars—or sugars not present before the food was produced. The FDA’s new label requires food manufacturers to list these added sugars in plain view. Government dietary guidelines suggest that less than 10 percent of daily calories come from added sugar.

New required vitamins
You’ll also notice that the nutrients that must be listed on the label have changed based on public health significance—particularly vitamin D and potassium, since Americans are often deficient. Deficiencies in vitamin D and potassium have been linked to an increased risk of chronic disease. On the other hand, vitamins A and C will no longer be required on the label because Americans aren’t usually deficient. In addition, manufacturers will have to declare the amount and percent Daily Value for vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. Reporting on the amount of other vitamins is voluntary.

Medically reviewed in July 2018. Updated in November 2019.

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