A Look at New US Food Labelling Laws

Reading food labels is often a daunting task as there are just so many things to look out for. Knowing what’s in your food sooner rather than later is definitely best. The good news is that new labelling laws hope to make things a lot clearer for us all. The labelling laws will be implemented in the United States (U.S) with the hope that other countries will follow in their footsteps. The revamped label aims to help individuals to make healthier choices without being too complicated. Let’s take a closer look.

THE NEW LOOK

For the first time in 20 years, Michelle Obama and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the Nutrition Facts Label would be getting a make-over. Large companies were supposed to implement this by 26th July 2018 whereas smaller companies had an extended period to comply1. In June, the FDA announced that the nutrition labels deadline would be extended without yet stating for how long2.

PLANNED CHANGES

  • The label’s look remains similar but important updates will help consumers make informed decisions about the foods they consume.
  • Serving size, by law, will more closely reflect the actual amount that individuals currently eat or drink. The amounts people eat has changed since previous size requirements were published in 19932.
  • “Calories” and “Serving Size” font will be larger and bolder  making it easier to see3.
  • For the first time – “added sugar” will be displayed in grams, it will also include the percentage of the recommended daily limit3.
  • The FDA recognizes that added sugars if consumed in moderation can form part of a healthy diet. However, when consumed in excess this makes it difficult to include healthier food that contains fibre, essential vitamins and minerals while still staying within calorie limits.
  • Scientific research has shown that it is challenging to meet nutrient needs whilst staying within calorie limits if individuals consume more than 10% of their total calories from added sugars.
  • Daily recommended limits for sodium, dietary fibre and vitamin D will be updated2.
  • The footnote is changing to better explain what percent Daily Value means. It will read: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”
  • Vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron will be displayed in amounts for daily value and in a percentage2. Other vitamins and minerals may voluntarily be declared in their gram amounts.
  • A package that is between one and two servings will be labelled as one serving as individuals typically will consume the whole package/can/bar in one serving3.
  • Food options that can be eaten in one sitting or over a period of time – will be labelled “per serving” and “per package.2

POSITIVE OUTCOMES

The new labelling laws hopes to educate consumers to make better decisions. It also hopes that in this way it will help reduce the number of individuals battling with obesity thereby also decreasing risk of diabetes, heart disease and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) 4. These are the first important changes to be implemented since the Nutrition Facts label was introduced 20 years ago2. Roughly 800 000 products will be affected from ice-cream to Coca-Cola to soup and pasta sauces. Products that are imported and exported to the U.S will also need to comply. The estimated overall cost to industry for the updates will be about $2 billion but the benefit to consumers will be between $20 billion to $30 billion4. Although these changes are currently planned to be implemented in the American market, these changes are indicative of where nutrition labelling is heading internationally, with expected changes and views cascading into the South African market.

REFERENCES

With nutritional information available at the click of a button, it has never been easier to increase your knowledge and make healthier choices. Now that you know about all the updates that are being implemented, it may be helpful to head over to the FUTURELIFE® website and learn a little more about label reading – http://futurelife.co.za/reading-labels-101/. Once that’s all done you will be equipped to enjoy your shopping experience and make smart comparisons and choices for yourself.