FDA Issues New Rules for Nutrition Labels for Packaged Foods

By: Robert Goldberg
Date: October 28, 2019

Nutrition Labels

On May 20, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new rules for nutrition labels for packaged foods. According to the FDA, the rules reflect updated scientific information about the link between diet and chronic diseases and are aimed at helping consumers make more informed choices. Nutrition labels were first required over 20 years ago, and the rules are the first major revisions to the labels since that time.

The rules change the format and content of the label as well as how serving sizes are determined for packaged foods. A side-by-side comparison of the original and new labels, along with highlights of the rules that may be of interest to industry stakeholders, are set out here.

Nutrion Facts

Changes to the Design

  • The rules require the font size in the new label to be increased for the “servings per container”, “Serving size” and “Calories” declarations. Similarly, the rules require the “Serving size” and “Calories” declarations in the new label to be bolded to highlight this information.

Updated Information

  • Under the rules, “Added Sugars” has been added to the new label in grams and as a Daily Value (DV) percent. “Added Sugars” include sugars that are either added during the processing of foods or are packaged as such, including mono- and disaccharides, sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices in excess of what would be expected from the same volume and type of pure juice. “Added Sugars” exclude sugars that are from pure concentrated fruit or vegetable juice as well as some sugars found in jellies, jams, preserves and fruit spreads.
  • The rules changed the list of nutrients required on the new label. Vitamin D and Potassium have been added to the label. Calcium and Iron continue to be required. However, Vitamins A and C are no longer needed, on the basis that deficiencies for these vitamins are rare. Manufacturers may add them voluntarily. For all nutrients, the rules require the actual amounts of the nutrients to be declared, in addition to the DV percent.
  • The rules removed “Calories from Fat” on the new label, in light of research cited by the FDA showing type of fat being more important than amount. “Total Fat”, “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” continue to be required.
  • The rules updated the DVs for sodium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin D for the new label based on recent scientific evidence.
  • The rules have changed the footnote for DV percent to explain better what it means.  

Updated Serving Sizes and Labeling Requirements for Certain Package Sizes

  • The rules require serving sizes for the new label to be based on the amounts of foods and beverages people actually eat rather than what they should eat. For example, when reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs) were first published in 1993, the serving size of ice cream was ½ cup. Under the updated RACCs, the serving size has changed to ⅔cup.      
  • For packages between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce bottle of soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the rules require calories and other nutrients to be labeled as one serving. For certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, the rules require manufacturers to provide “dual column” labels to indicate calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package” basis. For example, dual column labels would be required for a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. According to the FDA, dual column labels will allow people to understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.

Compliance and Next Steps

  • The rules apply to foods and beverages sold in the United States, including imported foods and beverages.
  • Manufactures with $10 million or more in annual food sales will have until July 26, 2018, to comply with the rules. Manufactures with less than $10 million in annual foods sales are being given until July 26, 2019, to comply.
  • During a call with industry stakeholders on May 20, 2016, the FDA declined to respond to questions regarding whether all products that are on store shelves as of the respective compliance dates must meet the new labeling requirements or whether the FDA would measure compliance as of the product’s manufacturer date. The FDA instead encouraged industry stakeholders to submit this question to the FDA for further consideration.
  • The FDA intends to conduct consumer education and outreach about the new label, including increasing the understanding of “added sugars” and other features of the new label. Additional information about the rules can be found on the FDA’s website by clicking here.

Berlin Packaging is proud to be the only Hybrid Packaging Supplier® and works to provide customers with comprehensive product and service solutions to address your packaging and supply-chain needs.

As Berlin Packaging’s General Counsel, Rob authored this article as a service to Berlin’s customers for educational purposes only. It should not be construed or relied on as legal advice or to create a lawyer-client relationship.