The FDA is updating serving sizes to reflect actual servings — plus, a few other significant changes.

By Melanie Fincher
January 19, 2020
Getty Images/Epoxydude

Nutrition Fact labels are going to look a little different starting in 2020. America's leading health and food experts have been contending with food businesses large and small to make food labels that are easier for consumers to read and comprehend. The results of those efforts are showing up on packaged foods now, as businesses must soon comply with laws that mandate specific but highly useful changes to those nutrition panels.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the deadline for food and beverage manufacturers to comply with new Nutrition Facts labels. Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales now have until Jan. 1, 2020 to switch to the new label. The previous deadline was July 26, 2019.

The FDA published final rules on the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods on May 27, 2016. These rules are said to reflect new scientific information pertaining to the link between diet and chronic disease, according to the FDA. The image below shows a side by side comparison of the old and new labels.

FDA

Nutrition Facts Label Changes to Expect in 2020

While some businesses have rolled out these updates already, you should expect to see the updated panel on nearly all packaged foods in the coming year. Here's what you can expect to see on the back of your food and beverage packages in 2020:

Serving Sizes

  • Type sizes will be bigger for "Calories," "Servings Per Container," and "Serving Size." The number of calories and serving size will also be in bold, in an effort to highlight these figures. Health advocates worry consumers don't realize a food package has multiple servings, and they don't do the math to understand how much they're consuming if they eat multiple servings. The added attention, these experts hope, will help consumers make healthier choices.
  • Serving Sizes must be based on the amount of foods and beverages people are actually eating. This means foods like ice cream and potato chips will have serving sizes that actually reflect what people typically eat, which is usually more than the current serving sizes suggest.
  • Packages that are between one and two servings will now be labeled as one serving. So a 12-ounce and a 20-ounce bottle of soda will both be labeled as one serving per bottle, because most people will consume the entire bottle in one sitting.
  • Dual column data for certain packages will appear. For 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 amount of calories and nutrients in both “per serving” and "per package"/"per unit." An example of this is a pint of ice cream, which may be consumed in one sitting or multiple, which will now be reflected in the label.

Nutrients

  • The explanation of Percent Daily Value is changing. It will now read as, "*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice."
  • In addition to percent Daily Value of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium, manufacturers must also declare the actual amount as well. Manufacturers may voluntarily declare the gram amount for other vitamins and minerals too. This can help people with varying diets better calculate their intakes.
  • Vitamin D and potassium are now required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required, but Vitamins A and C will no longer be.
  • "Calories from Fat" is being removed. "Total Fat," "Saturated Fat," and "Trans Fat" will still be required on the label, since research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Daily Values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D are being updated. This is based on newer scientific evidence from the Institute of Medicine and other reports.

Sugar

  • The label will now also include "Added Sugars" in grams as a percent Daily Value. Nutrition-minded advocates have been vying for an update to the sugar listing on nutrition panels for years, and they finally got it. The big win is forcing food manufacturers to list "Added Sugars," not just "Total Carbohydrate" and "Total Sugars" in grams and Percent Daily Value. Gram numbers are easier, the nutrition advocates argue, for people to understand because the recommendations are concrete: men should consume no more than 37.5 grams of sugar per day; women should consume no more than 25 grams per day. Plus, scientific data shows it's difficult to meet nutrient needs if you consume more than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugar.

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