It’s been more than 20 years since American consumers have seen an update to the “Nutrition Facts” labels that are mandatory on most packaged food and drink items. A significant update that would be more consumer-friendly and help to make food manufacturers more transparent was slated by the FDA to be in place by July 26, 2018. In June, the agency said it was pushing back that date and did not provide a new food labeling deadline.
Food and drink manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual sales originally had been given an extra year to comply with the new labeling and presumably will retain that year once the FDA announces the new deadline.
The talk in the industry is that the July 2018 deadline was extended because many manufacturers complained that they would need more time to produce the data that is required on the new labeling. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the FDA itself has been dragging its feet in not supplying critical pieces of data, specifically where added sugars and dietary fiber are concerned, making it impossible for most packaged food producers to comply with the new guidelines.
New Food Labeling Changes
The mandated changes aren’t sweeping, but they do affect new food labeling sections that consumers are very interested in. Under the new guidelines, the calorie count and serving size sections will be bolded and considerably larger than on current labeling, making it easy to get these numbers quickly.
Another change is in the listing of total carbohydrates. Currently this section is broken down into the total carb amount, fiber and sugars in grams. The new labels will add a line within the carb section that reads “Includes [X-amount] Added Sugars,” to help consumers differentiate between naturally occurring sugars in the food or drink and sugars that have been added by the manufacturer in processing.
As previously, the numbers above will be based on “serving size,” but that’s changing, too. If you’ve ever looked at the serving size on a label and thought, “Nobody eats that little of this item,” the FDA is thinking the same way by making serving sizes larger. Examples: A pint (16 oz.) of ice cream was formerly considered to have four (4-oz.) servings; now there will be three. A 20-oz. bottle of soda that was considered two servings will become a single serving. Serving sizes on packaging labels haven’t been updated for 24 years.
While many companies are moving slowly into making the new food labeling changes, The Hershey Co. is an example of one manufacturer that is already rolling out the new labels on some of its products considerably ahead of the deadline – whenever that may be.
Global Packaging wants to make sure companies are aware of the new food labeling changes that are in line with consumer demand for more transparency in the food industry.