Why the New FDA Food Labels Are a Big Deal for Dentists
This Spring, new FDA Food Labels were announced to the public. While they look the same at first glance, the differences are pretty significant.
The new Nutrition Facts label will include the following.
- An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings.”
- Requirements for serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat.
- Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product.
- “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.
- For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
- Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount, in addition to the %DV.
- “Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.
- An abbreviated footnote to better explain the %DV.
These changes reflect many years of food science studies, and attention to the health trends of the country. Susan Mayne, direct of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition stated, “The intention is not to tell consumers what to eat, but rather to make sure they have the tools and accurate information they need to choose foods that are right for themselves and their families.”
While these changes are a win for consumers that want to know, quickly and easily, what is in their food and how it affects their health, it could lead to difficulties for many in the food industry. If a food company’s appeal starts to drop under the new rules, they may need to reformulate their products. And this comes at a cost.
Regardless, it is a step forward in making sure the food we eat is nutritious and does not contain ingredients that are a detriment to our health.
As a dentist, I’m very pleased to see the new way in which sugars are listed. In the past, sugar has only been listed by how many grams are in the product. Now, there will be a separate line that not only lists the amount of added sugars but the percentage that is included in regards to how much you should eat throughout the day.
If a consumer sees that their daily bowl of cereal contains one-third of the amount of added sugars recommended for an entire day (which many kids bowls of cereal do), they may decide to go for a bowl of oatmeal instead.
When someone decreases their sugar intake, they decrease the chance of that sugar turning into bacteria and leading to tooth decay. So a small change like this could have a positive effect on overall oral health. Cavities and tooth decay are one of the most common chronic health problems in the world. It’s also a chronic health problem that is entirely preventable with proper diet and nutrition, and an optimal oral hygiene routine.
Manufacturers will need to have new FDA food labels in place no later than July 26th, 2018, and you may start to see them right away. It’s important that the population stays informed about these types of changes and that they understand how food labels affect their health. I’m happy to see this change to the FDA food labels, and can’t wait to discover its positive effects in my office over time.