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How to Prepare for the FDA’s Nutrition Label Changes

Whether we’re trying to find the best options for our kid’s school lunch, the perfect meal for date night or just a better way to satisfy our sweet tooth, eating healthy is on everyone’s mind these days. But as we stroll up and down the aisles of the grocery store, staring at wall after wall of colorful packages, it’s not easy to sort the good from the bad.

That’s where nutrition labels come in. Those simple black and white labels on the back side of nearly every product reveal the truth about what’s inside, regardless of what the cartoon mascot and catchy ad slogan on the outside are saying.


Our testing services can help you ensure regulatory compliance for nutritional labeling.

Now, after more than 25 years, the nutrition label is getting a 21st-century makeover. We covered some of the biggest changes to expect last year, but with the compliance date looming in 2020, it seemed like a good time to explore how these changes might impact your products and your business.

The history of nutrition labels

The earliest instance of nutrition labels dates back to 1966. At that time, displaying nutritional information on food packaging was optional unless nutrition claims were made on the label, in labeling, in advertising or when nutrients were added to the food.

The nutrition label as we know it today became a mandated element of all packaged food in the U.S. as part of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, and at the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The ruling took full effect in 1993 and the format, style and required information on nutrition labels has remained largely unchanged since then. The last significant change came in 2006 when food manufacturers were required to include trans-saturated fat as a separate line item.

Meet the 2020 nutrition label

On May 27, 2016, the FDA announced a number of significant changes to nutrition facts labels for packaged foods based on new nutritional and scientific information, evolving diets and dietary needs and to account for the links between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.

The goal of the new label is to make it easier for consumers to make better-informed food choices, and to more accurately reflect the eating habits of the American population.

What’s changing and why

The new label makes several small but significant updates that will provide consumers with more accurate information about the food products they buy. Here are some of the most notable changes.

  1. Serving sizes have been updated to more closely reflect the amount that the average consumer eats or drinks of each product. They are also displayed more prominently with larger, bolded type.
  2. Calories are now listed with larger type and no longer include a “calories from fat” value.
  3. The daily values of each category have been updated based on new scientific information and dietary suggestions.
  4. A new line item has been created to highlight the amount of “added sugars” in a product.
  5. Nutrients and vitamins will now display exact amounts along with their daily value percentage.
  6. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required (though manufacturers may still include them if they choose), while Vitamin D and Potassium will now be required.
  7. The footnote at the bottom of the label has been updated to provide a clearer explanation of what the information on the nutrition label means.

The updated nutrition facts label requirements must be implemented by January 1, 2020 (or January 1, 2021, for companies that have less than $10 million in annual sales). There will be some leniency early on, as products packaged on or before December 31, 2019 will be allowed to keep the current label until the product is out of date.

The FDA has not announced what actions it will take against companies who fail to meet the new labeling requirements.

Visit the FDA website for a full breakdown of every nutrition label change.

How will the new rules impact the way food manufacturers develop and market their products?

One of the biggest impacts that food manufacturers will notice is the new stricter dietary fiber guidelines. The FDA has updated which ingredients they will now acknowledge as dietary fiber.

The new added sugar requirement could also impact the way food manufacturers develop products as they’ll need to decide whether they want to display the added sugars or reformulate their product to not put off consumers who are trying to avoid ingesting excessive amounts of sugar.

Both of these rulings will require strict documentation in order to verify any fiber or sugar claims. Because there’s no way to test for added sugars or specific fibers, the ingredient list will help ensure that the FDA can validate any claims.

What should food manufacturers do to start preparing for the new rules?

Ensuring compliance with the new label requirements means understanding the ingredients and quantities being used in your product(s). Does your product’s dietary fiber value qualify under the new regulations? If not, you’ll need to update it or think about petitioning the FDA to consider including your specific ingredients as dietary fibers.

The same goes for added sugars. You’ll need to understand what qualifies as an added sugar, and how much is being added to your product.

Vitamin D and Potassium will also need to be added to your testing plan so that you can accurately represent it on your product’s label.

Work with Medallion Labs to test your products and prepare for the new nutrition label requirements.

Whether you decide to reformulate your product to meet the new FDA requirements or you just need some help understanding how to present your product’s nutritional information, Medallion Labs is here to help. We’ll partner with your team to ensure that you’re in compliance with the new label format and guidelines.

The FDA’s updated nutrition label requirements include more information than what we’ve shared here. Please visit the FDA website to read all of the related news, updates, and details.

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