New Nutrition Labels – A Call To Action For Nutrition Analysis And Label Design

When the Nutrition Facts panel first appeared on food packages approximately 20 years ago, it forever changed the back of the food package. Every food product large and small was required to display the now-familiar Nutrition Facts box with its regulation size, layout and Helvetica font.

The purpose of Nutrition Facts is to help people make healthier food choices. But in the 20 years since the panels made their debut, nutrition in America has not improved. Even more of us are overweight, we still don’t have a clue about portion sizes, and battles over ingredients like sugar continue to grab headlines. So the government decided that it’s time for a Nutrition Facts panel facelift. The proposed new look means new work for those of us in the food label business.

Food Labels

Here’s a look at what has changed:

The Calories font is much bigger so that the number of calories per serving is easy to see … and hopefully pay attention to. Servings per container also bulked up in size – this is to discourage people from eating the whole bag of chips or carton of ice cream without at least knowing that it’s more than one serving. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is adjusting its Serving size standards to better reflect the amounts of particular types of foods and beverages that people actually eat or drink. Calories from Fat will be removed because the type of fat affects health more than the number of fat calories. The middle of the label has a new look, with Daily Values moving to the left side of the panel. Added Sugars is a new listing that may or may not make the final cut, depending on which side of the sugar argument sways the FDA. Below the thick dividing line are two minerals that appear on the old label, calcium and iron, and two new nutrients linked to long-term health, vitamin D and potassium, that take the place of vitamins A and C. Government surveys show that Americans do not get enough vitamin D and potassium in their diet but generally are not deficient in A and C. Amount and percent Daily Value will be required.

The new label format means that food companies, at a minimum, have to provide their label design team with per serving information on the three new listings: added sugars, vitamin D and potassium. This may require either laboratory or computerized nutrition analysis for the two nutrients and recipe calculations for added sugars.

Once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), releases the final label format in the early fall of 2014, food companies will have up to two years to change their labels. Many are likely to adopt the new Nutrition Facts panel format as quickly as they can gather nutrition information and turn it over to their graphic designers.

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