The FDA's New Nutrition Label: Rated by Frank

On May 20, 2016 the FDA released the long awaited changes to the nutrition facts labels found on foods. The final nutrition facts labels are better than I expected and I can say I am impressed by the changes that they have made. In waiting for them to be released, I was skeptical as to what the final verdict would be. Let’s review what they are and how they can help you make better food choices.

1. Increase in font type size for “Calories”, “servings per container”, and “serving size”. The number of calories and “Serving size” will be in bold type as well. I like this feature for the fact that we beat these concepts into our clients and students because it is easily missed and is very important that it’s not missed. Knowing the serving size and the number of servings in a food is the basis for the rest of the label. To overlook this while consuming the entire drink or package, you are not realizing the result is a lot more going into your body.

Frank’s assessment = 5 stars

Old New

2. “Added sugars” in grams and as percent of Daily Value will be included on the label. This is a biggie in my book. It is not the end all be all, but it is more “in your face” information you need to see easily. Sugars are hidden in foods and are not natural sugars, which are completely different. Natural sugars are accompanied by many substances like fiber, which render them non-damaging contrary to non-natural sugars. This feature takes the guess work out of the equation.

Frank’s assessment = 5 stars

3. Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label and Vitamin A and C will not. Vitamin D and potassium inclusion are a five in my book. They are important nutrients and most people are deficient in them. However, I am not fond of the exclusion of vitamin A and C. They are important too and many people don’t get enough of them as well. If I had my way and the label space was unlimited, I would have everything listed! But, in the real world that is not going to happen. With that being the choice, I like Vitamin D and potassium over vitamin A and C.

Frank’s assessment = 4

4. The labels will continue to have “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on them. “Calories from Fat” is being removed. I give this move a big yes! Calories are not the big culprit to weight loss; they play a part but not as big as western convention thinks. Listing fat calories paints fat as the bad guy. If you follow me at all you know I love good fats and I love that this factoid is left off the labels. Calories are probably the primary fact people use in deciding if a food is healthy or not. With fat calories gone, Americans will hopefully get more fat - good fats of course - in their diets.

Frank’s assessment = 5!

5. Daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D are being updated on newer scientific data. Sodium is coming down 100mg from 2400mg to 2300mg, which is not much. I am torn on this one because there is a lot of conflicting science on sodium as good or bad. Dietary fiber is the same, but the 4 grams is now 14% not 16% of DV (Daily Value), and as stated earlier, the vitamin D increase is all good since most people need more.

Frank’s assessment = 4

6. The last big change of note is the nutrients will be listed in their actual amounts not just as %DV. The %DV is very confusing to most people where the actual amounts is great because 150mg of potassium means the same to all of us. The %DV approach is based on a 2000 kcal or 2500 kcal diet. If you are consuming 1800 kcals, how much did you just consume? Much easier to have the actual amount listed.

Frank’s assessment = 5

The FDA states “Manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply”. There is some time before you will see this across the board, but I am sure you will start to see some of the new labels fairly soon.

I assess this overall as a good move on the FDA’s part. It is far from where I think it should be, but we all have to be grateful there is someone requiring food producers to conform to some standard. Could that standard be better? Absolutely. I still believe it is up to each one of us to take accountability for the situation and learn what the rules to the game are and play by them. If it has a label on it, it’s not your best choice, but in the current world we all eat from a package. Be smart, empower yourself with the appropriate knowledge, and you will be able to make good informed decisions.

Live well!


* All pictures from the website.

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