Priority Policy

Nutrition Facts Label

Providing consumers and families with nutrition information to help them make healthy choices

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 requires companies to include the Nutrition Facts label on most packaged foods and beverages. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated the Nutrition Facts label to reflect the latest advances in nutrition science and consumer eating habits. The changes include: a larger text size that makes “calories” and “number of servings” more prominent; the amount and percent daily value of added sugars; and an adjustment to serving sizes to more accurately reflect typical portions.

The new labels will be mandatory on January 1, 2020, for manufacturers with more than $10 million in total sales and January 1, 2021, for all other manufacturers. Per its economic impact analysis of the final rule, the FDA estimates that the updated Nutrition Facts label will generate $78 billion in benefits to consumers over 20 years.

recommendations

The following nutrition facts label recommendations come from State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier Future, 2018, produced by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

• U.S. Food and Drug Administration should ensure no further delays to the implementation of the updated Nutrition Facts label, currently scheduled to begin in 2020, and encourage and provide guidance to companies who wish to utilize the updated label prior to the deadline.

• Food and beverage companies should follow the American Heart Association’s guidance concerning children’s intake of added sugars as they develop, reformulate, and market foods and beverages intended for children and adopt the updated Nutrition Facts label on all products as quickly as possible.

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UPDATES TO Nutrition Facts Label: SUgars

The updated Nutrition Facts label will, for the first time, include both the total amount and percent daily value of added sugars. Several studies have found that consumption of added sugars is associated with increased risk of obesity. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that added sugars should make up less than 10 percent of total daily calories. However, Americans ages 6 and older consume about 14 percent of their total daily calories from added sugars, with even higher amounts consumed by adults who are less physically active.

Purchasing Decisions

Seventy-seven percent of adults report using the Nutrition Facts label to inform purchasing decisions, with half using it “always” or “most of the time.” Seventy-nine percent of adults report using the label often or sometimes when buying a product for the first time. Consumers report using the label most often to find out the nutrient contents of a product or to compare nutrient contents between products.

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Spotlight

Trans Fat and Nutrition Labels

In 2006, the FDA required a new line on the Nutrition Facts label that listed the total amount of trans fat, a type of fat that raises bad cholesterol levels and contributes to an increased risk of heart disease. Between 2003 and 2015, food companies cut the use of trans fat by 86 percent. That year, the FDA determined that trans fat was not safe for use; within the next three years, companies had eliminated 98 percent. In June 2018, trans fat was officially eliminated from the food supply.

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Fast Facts

90%

According to USDA, 90 percent of Americans are deficient in potassium. The updated Nutrition Facts label will include total potassium levels, along with percent daily value.

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87%

In a 2018 national poll from the Center on Science in the Public interest, 87 percent of those surveyed think the updated Nutrition Facts label will be useful.

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29,000

Notwithstanding the official implementation dates of January 2020 and January 2021 for mandatory use of the updated Nutrition Facts label, more than 29,000 products already feature it.

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  • A study of health center patients found 86 percent incorrectly equated calories from a single serving of a packaged food with the total calories. The updated Nutrition Facts label addresses this discrepancy by providing ‘dual column’ label on certain items that include the amount of calories and nutrients on both a per serving and per package basis.
  • A 2017 study found 41% of participants couldn’t calculate the daily value percentage of calories in single food servings. Researchers concluded that “the 2016 revised [Nutrition Facts] labels may address some deficits in consumer understanding by eliminating the need to perform certain calculations i.e. total calories per package.”

Originally posted in August 2018.