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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. However, the agency has announced an indefinite delay in implementing the new labels.

The revamped labels, which were promoted by former first lady Michelle Obama, were scheduled to go into effect in July 2018. Food manufacturers would’ve been required to print bold, clear calorie counts, more accurate serving sizes and any added sugars on nutritional labels. The FDA said the compliance date for food manufacturers has been extended, but it’s unclear for how long.

Here’s a breakdown of the FDA’s proposed changes:

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. 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.

“Sugars added” 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 would require food manufacturers to list these added sugars in plain view.

New required vitamins
Nutrients that must be listed on the label would be updated, based on public health significance—particularly vitamin D and potassium, with which Americans are often deficient. Deficiencies in vitamin D and potassium have been linked to an increased risk of chronic disease. However, vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label because Americans aren’t usually deficient.

This content was published on August 15, 2016. It was updated on June 15, 2017.