Updated Nutrition Facts Panel, Image courtesy of FDA

In a major step aimed at helping consumers maintain healthy dietary practices, the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule on a new nutrition facts panel that will be required on the back of packaged food and beverages in the coming years. The final rule revises FDA regulations to provide updated nutrition information on the label and to improve how the nutrition information is presented to consumers.

This adjustment to the nutrition facts panel is the first update in over a decade. The FDA first issued regulations related to the nutrition facts label in 1993 and amended them in 1995 (to establish new daily values and to update existing daily values) and again in 2003 (to address the declaration of trans fats).

Here are the key updates to the nutrition facts panel for food and beverage companies to be aware of:

  • “Calories” and “servings” must appear in bolder and larger typeface.
  •  “Calories from fat” will be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  •  Serving sizes will more closely reflect the amount of food people currently eat.
  •  For packages that are between one and two servings, such as some soft drinks, calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving.
  •  Labels must separately list how many grams of sugar have been added by manufacturers and what percentage of the recommended daily maximum that represents.
  •  “Dual column” labels must be used to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.
  •  Nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D now have updated daily values consistent with the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  •  Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium must include the actual gram amount, in addition to the percent daily value.
  • Vitamins A and C will no longer be required to appear on the new nutrition facts label.

Some view the requirement to include “added sugars” labeling as the most significant change to the iconic nutrition label. The FDA explained that in adopting this change, the agency followed scientific evidence underlying the 2010 and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which support reducing caloric intake from added sugars. The final rule requires “Includes X g Added Sugars” to be included under “Total Sugars” to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to the product. This was a hotly contested issue between the agency and the food and beverage industry during the proposed rule comment period.

The final rule is the result of significant stakeholder engagement over the past several months. The FDA reported that they received nearly 300,000 comments, conducted several consumer studies and made those studies publicly available, and, in light of new scientific recommendations (particularly for added sugars), issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.

These new rules apply to all packaged foods, including foods imported into the United States, except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated separately by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The final rule will take effect on July 26, 2016. However, most companies will not be expected to reach full compliance until July 26, 2018. Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply with the updated nutrition facts regulations.