New nutrient fact labels get a makeover

Article by Terri Ward, FoodWIse Educator, Kenosha/Racine Counties
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

We teach participants of all ages how to read nutrient fact labels.

There are many “a-ha” moments when label reading comes up, a common surprise being that the information provided on the label is per serving rather than for the entire package.

Eyebrows rise and brows furrow when we hand learners calculators and ask them to do the math.

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard something like, “You mean to tell me that if I eat this tiny package there’s more sodium (or fat, or sugar) than what I’m supposed to get in three days?”

Unfortunately yes, that’s what we mean to say. That’s a fact.

Fortunately, the nutrient fact label is getting a makeover so it’s easier to read, understand and use as it was intended, to help consumers make informed choices about which foods and beverages they will choose.

Clearly some people won’t read it. Also, it’s apparent that simply knowing what’s in the food will not stop some from consuming a diet that contributes to the onset of food-related disease.

These are behaviors that are influenced by many things across the lifespan.

Knowledge needed

Typically, however, without knowledge the word “choice” becomes a little murky.

It is critical to provide clear, simple information to consumers — especially given the high prevalence of chronic, food-related disease in the state of Wisconsin and Kenosha County. Not only is there a general lack of knowledge about nutrition, but there is a plethora of strange claims and packaging strategies by food manufacturers that use fad diets and trends to sell products.

We’re excited about the new nutrient fact label, although the mandatory date manufacturers will be required to begin using it has been delayed by President Trump’s administration.

Some companies are taking the lead, however, and have already switched, or soon will, to the new requirements that were initially to have been implemented by July 2018.

The changes

A summary of the changes:

“Number of servings per container “and “serving size” lines are now larger or bolder. The serving size has been updated to more accurately reflect amounts people actually consume. (Yes, we usually eat more than three potato chips).

Calories are now larger and bolder, therefore easier to read, and “Calories from fat” is being removed, as we’ve learned that the type of fat consumed is most important.

Added sugars in grams as a percentage of your daily value (%DV) will now be required.

Nutrients listed have been updated. Americans are frequently low on vitamin D and potassium, whereas deficiencies in vitamins A and C, which used to be on the labels, are not as prevalent. Calcium and iron are also on the new list of nutrients and will be expressed as the amount needed in micro or milligrams in addition to the percent of daily value (%DV). The percent daily value (%DV) helps consumers more easily understand the context of a daily diet.

Watch for the updated labels, look for the facts, and reap the rewards of a healthy, well-balanced diet.