While it seems like packaged food has always had comprehensive nutrition labels, it was only as recently as 1990 that the FDA standardized the information on the label as we know it today. This data is listed in an attempt to educate consumers about the health value of their food, and as our diets and general well-being have changed over the last several decades, the FDA determined that it’s time for an update.
The new nutrition labels have an undetermined deadline, so while some food companies have already begun to modify their packaging, others are still left waiting to find out compliance information. Can this new way of displaying information change people’s eating habits and our health?
The Demand For More Information
One of the most dynamic sections of the food industry is the snack sector. Consumers are constantly asking for healthier options, more convenient packaging, and a variety of nutritional values to be included in every item. The changes these companies have undergone in the last several years shows an overall shift in attitude toward more health-conscious choices. So, will the new label take things another step in the right direction?
A prominent change implemented by the FDA is that labels must display calorie information in a larger and bolder type, making it easier for consumers to find. Serving sizes have been adjusted as well, allowing for a more realistic approach to how many portions we can reasonably get from our food packaging.
Two major changes come from data scientists have been gathering for years, and have to do with fat and sugar. Since the source of a person’s fat intake is more crucial than the amount consumed, the “calories from fat” listing is being eliminated.
A new addition to the sugar section takes a closer look at how much added sugar our society consumes every day. It’s been found that individuals have a difficult time eating a balanced diet if more than 10% of their calories come from added sugars. Because of this, nutrition labels will now include this information with both a percentage and a gram count.
Changes Over Time
Back in the 90’s when the FDA first created food labeling standards, the average American diet was lacking in Vitamin A and C. These nutrients were required on each package so that people could attempt to get their full daily value. Now we don’t see these deficiencies nearly as much.
Instead, potassium and Vitamin D are now sorely lacking, and these will be included on every label. A detailed explanation of %DV has also been updated to give consumers a more accurate context of this information.
Will Our Habits Change?
For individuals who always look at packaging before making a purchase, there’s a chance that these new food labels will help to incentivize smarter choices. Yet those who simply toss things into their shopping cart may not be phased. Only time will tell to see how the FDA’s changes will impact our diets and our overall health.