At the start of 2020 large food manufacturers were required to have updated nutrition fact labels found on their packages. Smaller manufactures have until January 1, 2021 to make this change.
With the label appearing on the packages of most all foods for the last 25 years, there is no doubt the label is among the most recognizable in the country. For that reason, the changes that were made at the start of this year were often overlooked as just another line of text.
We published a quiz last weekend for you to test your knowledge of the labels (take it here)!
Serving sizes tell a more complete story
Our eating habits have changed since the labels were first introduced in the 1990s and because of that, serving sizes have been forced to change as well. The new label increases the font size of the “serving size” and “servings per container.” Now the serving size is not necessarily the recommended amount, rather it is the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs). This is the amount that people often actually consume – and the calories and other information reflect this. After all, the serving size dictates the quantities and percentages displayed for all other lines on the label.
A good example of a product that has undergone serving size changes over the years is soda. In the past the serving was often 8oz, now you see it listed as 12oz in most cases. While increased serving sizes may give consumers the impression they should eat more than before, the updated calories, sugar, etc. that are printed on the package now give consumers a better understanding of what they are eating.
Know your sugars
Sugar isn’t exclusively found in soda or sweet treats. There are plenty of cases of natural sugars being found in fruits or other products with natural ingredients. This is why a new aspect of the label includes the addition of “added sugar.” Listing the amount of sugar found in a product is nothing new, but this extra line displays what percentage of that sugar is added and thus no natural.
Our deficiencies have changed
In the past, the inclusion of vitamin A and C information was pushed heavily due to Americans’ deficiencies of these vitamins. These deficiencies are no longer commonplace in America, and thus this information is no longer required on the label. Instead, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium now take more prominent roles with vitamin D, in particular, being a common deficiency.
Looking past the calories
The calorie quantity is now larger and more likely to catch your eyes when making a purchasing decision at the grocery store. However, those who want to take a serious look at what they are eating still can check the ingredient list at the bottom of the label. For a good rule of thumb, fewer ingredients are often better and the ingredients listed first make up the largest portion of the food. Ensure the first ingredient is something you think would make sense in the product – like milk appearing first as an ingredient in cheese.
For a complete breakdown of how to read a nutrition label, visit the FDA’s website.