FDA Proposes Nutrition Label Overhaul

The FDA is proposing an overhaul to food packaging and dietary supplement nutrition labels for the first time since the agency originally required them nearly 25 years ago. “We are proposing to revise our regulations to provide updated nutrition information on the label and improve how the nutrition information is presented to consumers, in light of current scientific evidence, dietary recommendations of most recent consensus reports, and public comments received in response to advance notices of proposed rulemaking” stated the FDA in its proposed rule, “Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels.” The proposed rule is scheduled to be published March 3, 2014.

Major changes to nutrition facts and supplement facts on labels include:

  • Fat. The FDA proposes to remove “calories from fat” from food labels, noting that type of fat is more relevant to consumers than total fat intake when considering risk of chronic diseases. Further, the agency found that removal of “calories from fat” did not have an effect on consumers’ perceptions of product healthfulness, nutrient content identification, and overall judgment of the product. However, total fat, saturated fat, and Trans fat amounts and daily values will remain on the label.
  • Sugar. It is proposed that “added sugars” be declared on nutrition labels, so consumers are provided with the necessary information to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture and HHS’ dietary recommendations in the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.”
  • Vitamins & minerals. Currently, the agency requires the declaration of percent daily values (DVs) of vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. In reviewing the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the FDA proposes that the declaration of vitamin D and potassium be required, along with calcium and iron. However, the declaration of vitamins A and C will be downgraded to “permitted” by the agency, rather than required.
  • Sodium.  In considering new and current science reports, the agency proposes that the DV for sodium be reduced from 2,400 mg to 2,300 mg.
  • Format. The FDA proposes numerous format changes to nutrition labels, including: (1) increasing the prominence of “Calories,” numeric value of calories, and declarations of numeric value of servings per container; (2) placing the “% DV” on the left side of the label to better highlight this information for consumers; and (3) removing the reference values of nutrients, based on a 2,000 or 2,500 calorie diet, from the footnote table. The agency intends to conduct additional market research to analyze how the changes will affect consumers’ understanding and use of nutrition labels. The proposed label may be found here.
  • Records. Currently, the agency has noted that there are no analytical methods to determine differences between dietary fiber and non-digestible carbohydrates; added and natural sugar; numerous forms of vitamin E; or folate and folic acid. Consequently, the FDA proposes that manufacturers be required to create and maintain written records for two years, demonstrating how companies have declared these nutrients on product labels.

“Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” stated First Lady Michelle Obama in an FDA news release. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”

The changes proposed by the FDA will impact all packaged foods, with the exception of certain meat, poultry, and processed egg products that are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The effective date of the changes will be 60 days after the final rule is published in the Federal Register, and compliance will be required two years after the effective date.