Reading the New Nutrition Label

Nov 30, 2016 | Aggie Life, Fall/Winter 2016-17, Food

The Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods in the U.S. is getting its first makeover in two decades, beginning in 2018. The federal government’s decision, reflecting the latest science, will be felt well beyond the label. University of California food experts praised the labeling changes and offered key takeaways.

Listing added sugar is the most important label change.

The new label will list the added sugar in a product, both in grams and as a percentage of the daily recommended allowance. “The new label will allow people to reasonably see what they’re doing when they’re consuming high-sugar products,” said Pat Crawford, senior director of research for the Nutrition Policy Institute of UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Americans need to consume less sugar.

Crawford noted that the new federal dietary guidelines for the first time recommend limiting added sugars in the diet to no more than 10 percent of one’s daily calories.

Expect manufacturers to make product changes.

When the federal government required that manufacturers add trans fat information on the label a decade ago, the food industry responded by marketing more products with lower trans fats, Crawford said.

The new label could lead to regulations limiting sugar.

“Once you’ve got added sugar on the label along with a daily reference value, policymakers will be in the position to set standards for the quantity of added sugar allowed in school lunches and other federal food programs,” said Laura Schmidt, of the UC San Francisco-led SugarScience research and education initiative.

The new label makes changes beyond sugar.

It also will list more realistic serving sizes and highlight calories in a larger and bolder font.