The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released proposed changes to “Nutrition Facts” labels and corresponding rules on serving sizes for packaged foods, including dairy. The proposed changes affect all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

“The proposed nutrition label and serving-size changes have huge implications for the dairy industry beyond the required nutrient declaration changes. They will also result in the need for some products that use nutrition claims such as “low-fat” or “fat-fee” to reformulate to meet the claims based on changed serving sizes,” said Cary Frye, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs.

Nutrition label makeover will have dairy implications Nutrition label makeover will have dairy implications

Among other changes, the proposal calls for a more prominent display of the calorie declaration and modified servings per container, along with a new declaration for added sugars. The proposed changes would affect nearly all packaged foods, including all milk and dairy products sold at retail.

The recommended Daily Value (DV) for calcium would increase from 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg, and milk would still qualify as an “excellent source.” Also, the DV for sodium would decrease modestly from 2,400 to 2,300 mg, and the DV for protein remains unchanged, so most dairy products can still make claims about the “good source of protein.”

Serving sizes for milk would remain the same at one cup, and cheese would stay at one ounce. The serving size for yogurts would decrease from eight ounces to six ounces, which is the most common size sold at retail. Based on a recent government consumption survey finding that the average amount of ice cream consumed is 0.875 cup, FDA proposed doubling the serving size for ice cream from one-half cup to one cup.

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), representing 32,000 dairy farmers, said the organization was “open to improvements that will help conumers make informed choices.” 

“We applaud the provision to highlight a food’s dietary contribution of potassium and vitamin D – two nutrients most Americans are not consuming enough of,” Mulhern said. “Milk is a great source of those, as well as two other key nutrients, calcium and protein, that are already highlighted on the current nutrition facts panel. This change will help consumers better understand the important role that dairy plays in a healthy diet.  

“There are some parts of the proposal that need greater clarification, such as the definition of ‘added sugars,’ and we look forward to working with the FDA to address these issues,” Mulhern said.

Nutrition label makeover will have dairy implicationsBoth NMPF and IDFA are reviewing the proposed changes to evaluate their full impact on the dairy industry. A public comment period will run 90 days following the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register, which likely will be Feb. 28.

FDA aims to complete the regulations next year, and companies would have two years to comply after the final rules are published. The Nutrition Facts label has been required on food packages for 20 years, helping consumers better understand the nutritional value of foods so they can make healthy choices for themselves and their families. The label has not changed significantly since 2006 when information on trans fat had to be declared on the label. 

In addition to filing comments, IDFA will continue to work with its food industry partners, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, to emphasize the effectiveness of voluntary labeling options,” said Jerry Slominski, IDFA senior vice president of legislative affairs and economic policy. “IDFA also will continue to educate policy makers on Capitol Hill about the great nutritional value of dairy products.”

“Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “So this is a big deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families all across this country.”

“For 20 years consumers have come to rely on the iconic nutrition label to help them make healthier food choices,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “To remain relevant, the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.”

Some of the proposed changes to the label would:

  • Require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that intake of added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced. The FDA proposes to include “added sugars” on the label to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product.
  • Update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people “should” be eating. Present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting.
  • Present “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.
  • Require the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, nutrients that some in the U.S. population are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label, though manufacturers could declare them voluntarily.
  • Revise the Daily Values for a variety of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. Daily Values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
  • While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and Percent Daily Value, which are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.

The proposed updates reflect new dietary recommendations, consensus reports, and national survey data, such as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrient intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The FDA also considered extensive input and comments from a wide range of stakeholders.

“By revamping the Nutrition Facts label, FDA wants to make it easier than ever for consumers to make better informed food choices that will support a healthy diet.” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “To help address obesity, one of the most important public health problems facing our country, the proposed label would drive attention to calories and serving sizes.”

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