New Food Labels Starting to Hit the Shelves


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Prior to the 1960s, meals were prepared at home with basic ingredients that were harvested from local farmers. There was very little demand for nutritional information because people knew where their food was coming from and what it was comprised of.

At this time, the only information provided on very few food labels was the calorie or sodium content. However, this was rare and was established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the sole purpose of “special dietary uses and intended to meet particular dietary needs caused by physical, pathological, or other conditions.”

The idea of Food Labels developed as processed foods flooded the marketplace. Popularity of processed foods soared and competition between companies grew. Marketers would make misleading claims about their products, in order to make their foods more attractive to consumers.

Recognizing the need for accountability in the industry, as well as the growing desire from the public to have a better understanding about the foods they consume, the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health recommended that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider developing a system to identify the nutritional qualities of food.

“Every manufacturer should be encouraged to provide truthful nutritional information about his products to enable consumers to follow recommended dietary regimens. (WHC, 1970)”

In 1973, the FDA established guidelines for the first voluntary nutrition labeling of packaged foods. Labeling was mandatory only if nutrient claims were labeled or advertised, or when nutrients were added to the product.

It wasn’t until 1990, under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NILEA), that the FDA mandated nutrition labels be placed on most foods.

Fast forward to May 20, 2016. The FDA announced changes to the nutrition label “in order to make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices”. The FDA published the final rules in the Federal Register on May 27, 2016.

Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales must switch to the new label by January 1, 2020; manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales have until January 1, 2021 to comply.

However, the new label is already appearing on packages. Here’s what you need to know about the changes.

There have been 6 changes to new label.


  • The number of “servings per container” and the “Serving Size” declaration have increased and are now in larger and/or bolder type.
  • According to the FDA, the amount people eat and drink has changed since the previous serving size requirements were published in 1993. Therefore, the serving sizes have been updated to reflect what people actually eat and drink today.
  • For example, the serving size for ice cream was previously 1/2 cup and now is 2/3 cup.
  • The reference amount used to set a serving of soda is changing from 8 ounces to 12 ounces.
  • There are also new requirements for certain size packages.
  • For example, packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
  • Also, for certain products that are larger than a single serving, but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the number of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package”/“per unit” basis. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream.
  • The FDA believes with the dual-column labels available, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.


  • Calories is now larger and bolder


  • “Calories from Fat” which was previously located to the right of “Calories” on the current label, has been completely removed on the new label. The FDA claims research shows the type of fat consumed is more important than the amount…(What is our opinion to this? Well, in the words of Mark Twain, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.)

Added Sugars

  • “Added Sugars” in grams and as a percent Daily Value is now required on the label. Added sugars includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such (e.g., a bag of table sugar), and also includes sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.


  • The lists of nutrients that are required or permitted on the label have been updated.
  • Vitamin D and Potassium are now required on the label because Americans do not always get the recommended amounts.
  • Calcium and Iron will continue to be required
  • Vitamins A and C are no longer required, but can be included on a voluntary basis. According to the FDA, deficiencies of these vitamins are rare today.
  • The daily values for nutrients such as like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, have also been updated based on newer scientific evidence from the Institute of Medicine and other reports such as the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, which was used in developing the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the percent Daily Value that manufacturers include on the label. The percent Daily Value helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.


  • The footnote at the bottom of the label has changed to better explain the meaning of percent Daily Value.

 Overall, none of these changes are lifechanging, but it is important for your clients to be aware, that serving sizes have changed. It is unfortunate, “calories from fat” has been removed from the label. This was a very simple way for people to understand the amount of fat they were consuming. It is now even more imperative that your personal training clients have basic understand of healthy foods, to offset this development.

Dr. Jim Bell,


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