Always read the label: US toughens rules for packaged food information


New US regulations for nutrition labels tighten the rules for determining serving sizes, sugar and calorie information.
New US regulations for nutrition labels tighten the rules for determining serving sizes, sugar and calorie information.
First major changes in 20 years focus on calories, serving size, added sugars and vitamins

America’s health watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration, has announced the first major changes to its nutrition facts label in more than 20 years.

Required on all packaged food to help consumers make healthy decisions, the last major review happened in 1994. The new rules come into force in July 2018, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaigns for obesity and fitness.

They include increased type size for “calories”, “servings per container” and the “serving size” statement. Calories and “serving size” will be in bold type to draw the attention of consumers.

The daily value note will state more firmly, “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

“Added sugars” will be included, shown as grams and as a percentage of daily value. It will be under “total sugars” on the panel.

Vitamins A and C are no longer required on the label. Vitamin D and potassium are now required.

Daily values have been updated for fibre, sodium, and vitamin D.

“Calories from fat” is removed, because research has shown the amount of fat is not as important as the type of fat. Despite strong demands from manufacturers to remove the trans-fat declaration, the FDA stood firm.

America’s beer drinkers are also about to receive a nudge. The Beer Institute, which represents more than 3300 brewers, has released voluntary guidelines for nutrition information on their labels. The six largest brewers, who produce 80% of the country’s beer, have agreed.

Most alcohol has never been required to list calories, carbs or fat content because it is controlled by alcohol and tax authorities, not the FDA. One observer lists a bottle of Budweiser at 145 calories, with Bud Light at 110.

Stella Artois is 152 and Corona 148.

Trans-Tasman nutrition labels come under the jurisdiction of the combined Food Standards Australia New Zealand authority.

All food packages are legally required to have a nutrition information panel and list of ingredients. They are not always on the same section of the label and labels may include manufacturers’ nutritional claims.

The panel is required to provide nutrient content per serve and per 100g.

Specific information includes energy content (in kilojoules and sometimes calories); protein content; fat and saturated fat content; total carbohydrate; sugar content and sodium (salt) content.

Any nutrient about which a claim has been made e.g. “good source of calcium” requires calcium included in the panel.

Some products also provide information on the fibre content but manufacturers are not legally required to do this.

Some foods provide nutrient information on different serving presentations such as breakfast cereals served with milk.

All food packages include a list of ingredients but they are not always found as part of the panel. Ingredients are listed from largest to smallest quantity. Sugar, fat and salt are often listed in the ingredient list under different names.




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