The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the new requirements for food labels in September 2019, which should provide consumers with more relevant information. Most companies initially updated their nutrition labels back in 2016. But now smaller businesses with annual food sales of less than ten million dollars also have a compliance date, and they have until July 1, 2021, to update their food labels.
This update was introduced due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumers. These changes are evidence based to better educate people about the food they are consuming and its impact on their health.
Nutrition Facts and Their Importance
Food labels vary according to the product. But all of them have some common characteristics. Before diving into how food labels are designed, let’s first examine why reading food labels is important.
For manufacturers, food labelling is a legal requirement, as consumers have a right to know what they are consuming. Food producers have to be very careful while making nutrition labels to avoid missing any requirement from the list. The FDA has given a clear and concise set of guidelines to help producers label better.
A healthy diet is only possible if you understand how to pick and choose what’s good for your body. So, food labels exist to make it easier for you to make wise decisions about what you eat. You can compare the food labels on two similar products to pick the best one.
Reading nutrition labels also helps you better understand the food you’re consuming and get better value for the price. You will be able to spend your money on the products that provide the most benefit. In this way, your money won’t go to waste, and you’ll get more value for it, too. Instead of buying two single-serving packs, for example, you could buy a bigger one to save money.
It’s also a safety feature for people with food intolerance. According to experts, you should avoid foods that can cause you an allergic reaction or cause digestive discomfort. Nutrition labels make it easy to avoid products that contain ingredients you are allergic or intolerant to, such as dairy. This way, you get to improve your diet, take in more nutrition, and steer clear of harmful ingredients.
If you want to maintain your weight, you need to reduce the number of calories you’re consuming and avoid emotional eating. The more energy-dense foods you take in, the harder it is to burn the excess. Reading the labels and picking low-calorie foods will save you from putting on weight in the long run.
Here is a short two-minute video with foods you can eat without worrying about calories.
How to Read Food Labels
Nutrition labels provide a list of ingredients, beginning with those with the highest quantity to the lowest. Besides this, they also have allergy warnings that mention common items people may be allergic to, such as nuts. The serving size, net weight, calorie amount, and daily value percentage are also an integral part of nutrition labels.
The FDA recommends the following procedure to read food labels:
- Look at the serving information. All the remaining information is based on serving size, so you must understand the measurements. For instance, if the serving size is one cup, then the number of calories and each ingredient’s quantity has been described according to one cup. If you consume two cups, you will be eating twice the amount of calories due to consuming two servings.
- Next, check the calories. This helps you know how much energy you’ll get from the product and from each serving. Balancing the calories you consume with the calories you burn throughout the day is an integral part of maintaining a healthy weight.
- Go through the list of nutrients. Look for nutrients that you might be deficient in. The best nutrients for you are iron, calcium, vitamin D, and dietary fibre. So always keep your eyes open for those and avoid products having a high amount of sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat.
- The percentage daily value tells you whether the product is high in a certain nutrient or low. The percentage is how much of that specific nutrient is in one serving, out of the recommended daily value of the nutrient.. The higher the %DV, the more of that nutrient you’ll gain from the food. Look for 20% DV or more of good nutrients, which is considered a high amount.
The Difference Between New and Old Nutrition Labels
There aren’t too many differences between the new food labels and the old ones. However, improvements have been made according to the suggestions and findings of scientists and researchers.
The first key difference is that the calories are now written in a larger and bolder font. This makes it easier for the consumer to get the most important information quickly. The serving size and number have also been enlarged to facilitate people in portion control.
Consumption has changed over time, so the serving size has been modified accordingly. Now it’s measured with respect to how much a typical American consumes and fits most people’s eating habits in the U.S. Instead of telling you how much you should eat, serving sizes now tell how much people usually eat.
The percentage daily values of vitamin D, dietary fibre, and sodium have been updated. This is due to new scientific evidence repeatedly provided by certain studies. For example, more emphasis has been placed on the type of fat rather than the amount by removing calories from the fats category.
A new subheading, added sugars, has been added under total sugars. This is to differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and separately added sugars. The total sugars are the sum of both.
Due to the increase in vitamin D deficiency in the U.S., it has now become compulsory to add vitamin D and potassium content on the nutrition label. Insufficient potassium intake is linked to higher blood pressure and kidney stones, while vitamin D deficiency causes severe muscle and bone weakness.
All updates are based on research conducted from 2015 to 2020. As a result, most of the changes are a good improvement. So don’t forget to add reading food labels to your list of healthy hacks.
The FDA has now made it compulsory for all companies, including small businesses, to update their food labels. These changes include highlighting vital information, such as serving size and amount of calories, and stating the number of essential nutrients, such as vitamin D and potassium. A separate section for added sugars has also been introduced, which is highly beneficial for people with diabetes.