FDA Revamps Rules for Nutrition Labels on Food

infographic that shows what has changed on the FDA's new food labels

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today finalized new rules for the Nutrition Facts labels that are on most packaged foods. The new labeling reflects the latest scientific evidence about nutrition and health, and can help consumers make healthier food choices more easily.

The design of the label will look familiar, but certain categories – including calories and serving size – will be in larger text to make them stand out more. Another major change requires the labels now include the amount of “added sugars,” which is sugar added to many processed foods and beverages, like packaged cookies and cereals, and soda and sports drinks.

Currently, the Nutrition Facts label only lists total sugar, which doesn’t differentiate between sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and dairy products, and those added during processing. “There is so much added sugar in the foods and drinks many of us consume on a regular basis, but we are not aware of just how much. This change to the Nutrition Facts Panel will be an eye-opener for people who read labels," says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, American Cancer Society managing director of nutrition and physical activity. “Ultimately, our bodies don’t differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugar, but foods and beverages high in added sugar tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients – and we should be consuming less of them.”

Other key changes will include:

  • Removing the field “Calories from Fat” because the type of fat (saturated vs. trans) is more important than the amount, according to research.
  • Updating “Daily values” information for certain nutrients, like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D to align with the latest evidence.
  • Overhauling serving size information to be more in line with the amount people actually eat.

The FDA proposed changes to Nutrition Facts labels in early 2014 and then allowed for a comment period to let the public weigh in. The American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), provided input at that time. ACS CAN President Chris Hansen said in a statement today: “We’re pleased that the FDA has decided to make significant changes to the Nutrition Facts label, which will be more useful for consumers who want to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.” “The final regulation is an important step forward in helping individuals make better choices to help reduce their risk of becoming overweight or obese, which are contributing factors to a growing number of cancer diagnoses,” Hansen said.

Americans won’t see the new labels right away. The FDA stated that manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018. This will be the first significant update to Nutrition Facts labels since they were introduced in 1993.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.