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Nutrition Labels Are Getting A Makeover

March 3, 2014   27 Comments

How often do you think you need a makeover? How about every 20 years?

New Nutrition Label

If that seems too long, well I agree with you. I need someone with a stylish eye to help me with my look every five years or so because I keep aging (no matter how hard I try – I can’t seem to stop it).

The FDA has decided after 20 years that the nutrition label needs a redo. Twenty years ago I bet you had a cassette player in your car. Government agencies move at a snails pace but I should stop complaining and start celebrating.

So after 20 years here it is (from FDA.gov):

Quite a few of you are wondering what is different. I was hoping for some color like I have seen in other countries. Red for “watch out – this will kill you”, yellow for “slow down – don’t eat it too fast” and green for “eat as much as you want”.

I don’t think my system is going to get implemented any time soon so let’s review this label. Right away, you have to notice the number of servings. This has been one of my biggest complaints about food labeling. You think the food you are consuming has 100 calories until you eat the whole thing and find out there was 4 servings per container – whoops!

They are also updating the serving size to reflect what people actually eat. How funny is that? I would expect the serving size of a can of soup to change to one instead of two (no one eats half a can of soup) after this change goes into effect.

The calories are now large, which is nice. The change that I adore is the “added sugars”. Do you know how I complain about high sugar yogurt? Well, now Yoplait can’t hide behind lactose already being a component in milk. They are going to have to tell us that they added 20 grams of sugar to their yogurt (four teaspoons!).

I like the new label and I am planning to do something I have never done.

The FDA has opened a 90-day comment period, during which experts and members of the public can provide input on the proposed rules.

Since I am a member of the public, I am going to comment on the changes. I tried on Friday and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. After about 30 minutes, I posed as a member of the media and called Theresa Eisenmann of the FDA and she picked up the phone (to my surprise).

She explained that comments started on Monday (today) and I could comment by going here: Regulations.gov and searching for:

Nutrition Facts label: FDA-2012-N-1210
Changes in Serving Size: FDA-2004-N-0258

To comment by mail, send written comments to:
Division of Dockets Management
Food and Drug Administration, Room 1061
5630 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852
Make sure that the docket number is written at the top of each page of your comment.

Why take time to comment? Once you know how to do it - it shouldn’t take long and also if consumers don’t comment who do you think is going to get a seat at the table? I’m looking at you, ConAgra.

From the Regulations.gov site:

Public participation matters. Democratic, legal, and management principles justify why public comments make a difference in regulatory policy. Public participation is an essential function of good governance. Participation enhances the quality of law and its realization through regulations (e.g. rules).

Tell them what you think and we can hope that the changes will help Americans make better choices.

What do you think of the new nutrition label?


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27 Comments:

I wish the food's glycemic index would be added to the nutrition label! I make a yummy snack using rice krispies, peanut butter and honey. Not really high in calories and very satisfying. Then I thought to look up the glycemic index of the rice krispies...no more of that snack!! :(

on March 3, 2014

I have always wondered about the unrealistic serving sizes. I am glad they are changing them to be more in line with what people actually eat. I am thrilled that the added sugar is going to be on the label. From what I've been reading lately, that's the real culprit in our diets.

on March 3, 2014

I also agree with making serving sizes realistic . At my grocery store all baking (buns , wraps, muffins) have a serving size as half. I bet a lot of people don't notice. The other thing that really bothers me is that when I weigh the food item instead of getting out my cups the label is often FAR off. My walmart muesli said I could eat a cup for 180 calories. That's a bargain, because that would really fill you up. I ate a lot for a while and gained weight. After, when I weighed it that amount if grams was less than 1/2 a cup. It was too good to be true, because it wasn't true. Will this help fix this- I hope so .

on March 3, 2014

Tried to leave a comment using the link you provide,did not work. Message saying comments closed. I love the new labels, it is about time, whey did it take twenty years?

on March 3, 2014

I agree with the person who suggested that they add the glycemic index. It would sure be helpful for diabetics.

on March 3, 2014

I also tried to leave a comment using the link you provided and it said that comments were closed.

on March 3, 2014

I really hope Canada follows suit. I bought a packaged soup at Costco. I had started doing Weight Watchers and when I was figuring the points the serving was for 1/4 cup! Who eats a 1/4 cup of soup! For one cup the soup would of been 17 points! Unreal?!?! The suggestion of glycemic index added to the labels would be very helpful for the ever growing epidemic of diabetes.

on March 3, 2014

I would love to see percentage values as well. For example, fat makes up 25% of this food's weight. Not a percentage of daily recommended allowances! That way I could compare different foods. "Oh, wow, one in every 4 bites of that sausage is fat!" (When I see it has 25% fat, for example.). And then I'd be able to see at a glance what contains unreasonable (unhealthy) amounts of sugar (more than 15% perhaps) or fat (more than 5%, eat a little, more than 10%, stay away!)

on March 3, 2014

The improvement of bolder print is nice. I'm in my 60's and I remember when portion sizes WERE THAT small and deemed normal too. For example hamburgers were 6 or 8 to a pound! Yes they were! Because they were PART of a meal, not the whole meal. There was a huge fanfare when McD advertised QUARTER-POUNDERS! I know people today that gorge on half-pounders or more, which is part of our obesity epidemic, in my opinion. Another item I can think of off the top of my head is ice cream cones, they used to be like today's junior cone. I'm really into reasonable serving sizes as you can tell. In my experience I've managed 2 or more servings from a can of soup, mainly because its served with a salad or sandwich. Canned soup is a course not a meal in our family. But, whatever one's eating habits are or how much of one food one eats it IS an improvement to have larger print and ''added sugar'' info. I'm looking forward to more transparency in labeling ingredients someday too.

on March 3, 2014

The federal government is closed today in DC for snow and ice. My guess is that means the regulation won't come off "preview" until they re-open, probably tomorrow. I plan to comment as well, to applaud including added sugar.

on March 3, 2014

And whether you agree with eating them or not, who seriously eats only one Pop Tart? That's the one that's always been a head scratcher.

on March 3, 2014

While I think it is a good idea to show the actual calories for what an average person eats, we use that label as a way to know what the "approved serving size" is. So, for people who are unaware that the "serving" being shown is no longer how much it is recommended you eat, it may very well cause them to eat more than they would have with the old label. I think there should be a line saying, "Recommended serving size."

on March 3, 2014

@Silva, 25% fat doesn't mean that 1 in 4 bites is fat. It means that a serving provides 25% of your daily fat allowance by FDA standards. I could go on a whole, long, rant about that (summary: fat doesn't make you fat, can actually be quite healthy, and you have to look at what kinds of fat there are), but I'll leave it at my little summary. :)

on March 3, 2014

Whoops! Already can see I read it wrong. >.< Though I stick with fat isn't the devil. :) But you can already do that easily, since it says how many grams of each category there are, plus how many are in a serving. In the example above, it's 8g out of 55.

on March 3, 2014

The only thing that has me concerned is that people are not learning what a serving size should be. I guess not everyone thinks that way and they are looking at what the general public thinks and actually eats, not what they could learn from the label.

A "real" serving size can be surprising and eye-opening, but maybe people aren't using the nutrition facts for that like I do.

on March 3, 2014

Lisa; I am in Canada-I wonder if we will follow with the new labels. Hope so. We love you up here-your advise,info, and recipes. I'm waiting for my book! Thank you for all you do. Catie

on March 3, 2014

Not overly impressed with the changes. As you said, at least they now have "added sugars." Everyone's serving size is different, teens, adults, male/female, elderly. Maybe they made them more in line with reality.

I think most people want to know if there are GMO products in the food and what the place of origin is. Distributed in the US does not cut it for me.

on March 3, 2014

I am so sorry you all were unable to comment. I will be sure to let you know how/when I figure out how to do it. argh!

on March 3, 2014

I love the new labels to a point. After a couple of times of being fooled, I am now aware of what they call a serving size and usually don't buy the product then. This new way, if you don't want all the serving, you need just cut in half for your self. The bold print is very nice, but I like the color idea as well. The other thing that has always been a mystery to me is this: always at the bottom of the label it always says about when you consume 2,000 calories a day, that's how much of the nutrients you are getting. Does this mean you have to consume 2000 calories to get that much protein, etc. out of a serving? Please, someone help me to understand this concept. I have tried to get an explanation on the net, but to no avail.

on March 3, 2014

I too have been super frustrated with nutrition labels for years so YAY for change!!! My biggest complaint is when serving size doesnt match the servings per container.

on March 3, 2014

What about the protein % (has that gone away?). Let's talk about ingredients, are they doing anything to break that down? Natural flavors (what is this composed of?). GMO or Non-GMO? People really need to wake up. Our obesity epidemic is absolutely out of hand. Fat is fat! You don't need to buy foods with added fat (oils), cause we eat natural fats with our foods. Check out labels, when no added oils (those are hard foods to find) there is Still fat in the label. Our FDA needs to have an entire makeover. Help America gey healthy, we are sick and don't even know it!!

on March 3, 2014

I eat a half can of soup all the time. I like the new label, but there's always room for improvement.

on March 3, 2014

I loved the added sugar field and clearly marked servings per. It's a step in the right direction but if it takes another 20 years to tweak it again, I hope changes are worthwhile way into the future. I wonder of this is going to screw up anything with WW and eTools. I count on their tallies of ppls totally.

on March 3, 2014

It seems like they do not plan to ever label food in consumers interests.

I think that whole labeling is a fiasco if you consider that they can write any size as a serving and avoid having to label ie: trans fat on creamer, even though it is mostly trans fat.

It is sad that every law gets a way to cheat on

on March 3, 2014

I don't believe that all fats are bad, either (avocado, macadamia, almond, walnut, oilve, oily fish for omega 3s, etc; all good fats in moderation can be healthy) #k.

Currently Australia has very clear nutritional labels, they show something similar to the newly proposed FDA ones, (with quantities given per serving), alongside a column of the same info for everything for 100g of that food (which is same as percentage - 8g in a 100g portion of that food is like saying 8%, of course). I found that, of all labels I've worked and shopped with, it makes it easiest to compare two food items simply.

That new US label is great though with fat percentage further broken down into %saturated and trans (really bad) fats and carbohydrates are further divided into (simple) sugars.

I've lived in US and Europe and after the 'at a glance' clarity of the Australian labels, I get so frustrated when I have to deal with any other country's nutrition labels now!

Yes, I can get to the percent fat or sugar from the new US labels but often the calculator in my brain is insufficiently accurate and I don't shop with a hand held calculator typically. I guess the labels that do all the calculating for me have spoilt me!

When serving sizes differ, it is just so easy to compare like with like when seeing what foods contain as a percent of their total weight.

Are serving sizes chosen by the manufacturer? It seems so arbitrary to me and often not related to reality. I've seen a salad bowl described as two servings! Ha! Like I'm going to make that last over two meals or share it!

I would choose a yoghurt over an ice cream normally (eg, two deserts with different serving sizes), but some yoghurts actually contain a HIGHER percentage of fat than vanilla ice cream! Then I look at sugar content and again, yoghurt and ice cream can contain around 25% sugar, so I can choose more wisely. Fruit yoghurts can contain even more sugar; fructose (from the fruit) and lactose (milk sugar). I may as well eat the ice cream and enjoy it! (Not taking into account the probiotics of yoghurts, now.)

I'd love to see more information given in an easily understandable way. No reason I can think of not to have a second column of values alongside the one for 'per serving' for 'per 100g'. Aussie authorities come up with some good ideas, too!

As you can see, I'm passionate about labelling; apologies for length of my ideas!

on March 4, 2014

I would like to see a lactose level on the new nutrition label. I am lactose intolerant and I found out (the hard way) that almost every man made item is made with some level of lactose. If there was a level of how much lactose is on the food product then every one that is lactose intolerant would know, "hey i should/shouldn't eat this."

on March 5, 2014

I heard we have Michelle Obama to thank for this. Apparently she lit a fire under the FDA, and implemented the change for the serving sizes being more realistic. Usually I find her obesity lectures pretty silly, because you don't get much done standing around talking about getting stuff done. But I think this is great! And at least a step in the right direction for the FDA.

on March 6, 2014


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