FDA Updates Nutrition Facts Panel

On May 20, 2016 the Food and Drug Administration announced the changes to the nutrition-facts panel, citing a need to update the 20-year-old existing label due to consumers demanding more accurate and helpful information about the foods they eat.

On the surface, it seems like a small change, but for those involved, there is far more to it than simply a modified look.

What the Changes Mean for Consumers

For consumers, the label will still be recognizable and easy to read. Much like a company will refresh their logo without significantly changing their logo, the FDA has refreshed the nutrition-facts panel without losing the essence of the classic clean, black-and-white look.

The updated design will make it easier for customers to get the information they usually seek first, such as calories and serving size, and also updates what, exactly, food manufacturers are required to put on the panel. These mandates are in line with current dietary shortcomings, which have changed on a national scale in the last 20 years.

For example, Vitamins A and C will no longer be mandatory inclusions on the panel. In the early 1990s, when the existing panel was created, many American diets lacked those nutrients. Now that such deficiencies are so rare, manufacturers may include the information if they wish, but are not required to do so. Conversely, Vitamin D, which was not an obligatory inclusion on the old label, is going to be required from now on.

What the Changes Mean for Producers and Manufacturers

Obviously, food producers will need to supply accurate information on the new FDA panels, which will require adherence to the new rules. In addition to the vitamins being added and removed above, manufacturers will now have to include potassium (another nutrient that lacks in American diets based on food-consumption surveys) and, most notably, added sugars.

On existing labels, all sugars are included in one item. On the new labels, added sugars will be specifically broken out and listed. For instance, if a product has 10 grams of sugar on its label now, but eight of those grams are added (see page 897 of the Nutrition Facts Label Final Rule for a definition of “added sugars”), there will now be a line beneath “sugars” to tell consumers eight of the 10 grams are added sugars.

Manufacturers have over two years—until July 26, 2018, to be exact—to comply with the new requirements. For manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual sales, that deadline is extended by one year.