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Nutrition Label Overhaul Moves Food Science from Lab to Table
Missouri Ag Connection - 12/04/2017

Nutrition can sometimes seem complicated. That is why many people were excited in May of 2016 when the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced a new Nutrition Facts label. It was the first change in 20 years.

The new label - found on all packaged foods and beverages - will now reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases. The compliance date was set for July 26, 2018, with an additional year to comply for manufacturers with annual food sales of less than $10 million.

After consideration of feedback from industry and consumer groups, the FDA has now proposed to extend the compliance dates to provide additional time for implementation to January 1, 2020, with an additional year for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales.

"We encourage everyone to focus on eating less processed foods, more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, the reality is that many rely, to some extent, on packaged foods on a daily basis. The updates to the Nutrition Facts label are meant to help to empower consumers to make healthier choices that can impact their long-term health," said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

The "serving size" and "servings per container" will be displayed more prominently, and will use more realistic serving sizes, to represent what people are actually eating.

For instance, yogurt will be six ounces instead of eight ounces, to reflect the commonly consumed individual packaged yogurts in 6-ounce containers. But the serving size of ice cream has gotten a little larger - from a half cup to two-thirds of a cup.

The calorie count is listed in bigger and bolder font.

"Calories from fat" will be removed. Recent research shows that the type of fat is much more important for health than total fat consumed. The grams of fat, saturated fat, and trans fat will still be listed.

"Added Sugars" will now help differentiate between total and added sugars, to determine how much sugar has been added during processing.

"It becomes difficult to meet nutrient needs, and also stay within calorie limits, if more than 10 percent of total daily calories come from added sugars," said Duitsman. "Also, consuming sugar-sweetened foods and beverages is associated with a higher risk of weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and nutrient poor diets."

Americans are encouraged to decrease their intake of added sugars, and replace those calories with healthier, more nutrient-dense foods.

"It should now be easier to make more informed decisions by recognizing that some foods like milk and fruit contain natural sugars, but are healthier choices because they are loaded with other nutrients," said Duitsman.

The actual amount of calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin D will now be listed since the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee considers them to be "under-consumed."

Daily values for nutrients have been updated based on newer scientific evidence. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the percent Daily Value (%DV) that manufacturers place on the label.

A new footnote on the label will explain what %DV means, and help consumers understand how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to their total daily intake.

"Daily Values are best used to compare different products -- for example, fiber in breakfast cereals," said Duitsman.

The label will be on nearly 800,000 food products nationwide, with regulations applying to packaged foods except certain meat, poultry, and processed egg products, which are regulated by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

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