Nutrition: Food Label
Packaging regulations play a vital role in ensuring that food products are labeled accurately and provide essential information to consumers. Adhering to these regulations helps to protect public health, promote transparency, and enable consumers to make informed decisions about the food they purchase (Roberto et al., 2021). Additionally, understanding these regulations aids food producers in ensuring compliance, while consumers can gain confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the information provided on food packaging.
This paper aims to provide consumers with clearer and more relevant information about the nutritional content of food products, empowering them to make better-informed choices, promoting healthier dietary behaviors, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases associated with poor nutrition.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established labeling requirements to ensure that essential information is provided to consumers. Besides the Nutritional Facts Panel, food labels are required to include information on (FDA, 2023):
- Product Name: The accurate name of the food product helps consumers identify and differentiate between different products.
- Ingredient List: An ingredient list is mandatory on food labels and provides consumers with information about the components of the product. Ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance by weight, which means the ingredient that contributes the highest amount to the product is listed first. This helps individuals with dietary restrictions or allergies make informed choices and avoid ingredients they may need to avoid.
- Allergen Declaration: Food labels must identify the presence of any major food allergens as defined by the FDA. These include common allergens such as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Allergens must be listed either in the ingredient list itself or in a separate Contains statement.
- Net Quantity of Contents: The label should state the net weight, volume, or count of the product, allowing consumers to know the quantity they are purchasing. This information is essential for comparing products and determining their value.
- Name and Address of the Manufacturer, Packer, or Distributor to allow consumers to contact the manufacturer in case they have any questions, concerns, or feedback regarding the product.
- Country of Origin: In certain cases, the country of origin or the place where the product was manufactured must be disclosed on the label. This requirement helps consumers make informed decisions, especially when it comes to concerns about product safety, quality, or supporting local industries.
Comparison of Original Nutritional Facts Panel and New Nutritional Facts Panel
Similar Facts Panels
- Serving Size: Both labels indicate the serving size as 2/3 cup (55g).
- Calories: Both labels display the same calorie content per serving, which is 230 calories.
- Total Fat: The amount of total fat per serving is stated as 8g on both labels.
- Saturated Fat: Both labels mention the saturated fat content as 1g per serving.
- Trans Fat: The trans fat content is listed as 0g per serving on both labels.
- Cholesterol: both labels have “0mg” for cholesterol per serving.
- Sodium: The sodium content per serving is consistent at 160mg on both labels.
- Total Carbohydrate: The total carbohydrate content is stated as 37g per serving on both labels.
- Dietary Fiber: Both labels mention the dietary fiber content as 4g per serving.
- Protein: The protein content is consistent at 3g per serving on both labels.
Difference In Label Products
- % Daily Value: The original label provides the % Daily Value for Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron. The new label includes the % Daily Value for Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium.
- Total Sugars: The original label mentions sugars as 1g, while the new label differentiates between total sugars (12g) and added sugars (10g).
- Vitamin D: The new label includes Vitamin D with a value of 2mcg and a % Daily Value of 10%.
- Potassium: The new label provides the potassium content as 235mg per serving, along with a % Daily Value of 6%.
- Additional Note: The new label includes a note stating that the Daily Value (DV) is based on a 2,000-calorie diet, while the original label does not state this.
Links between Diet And Chronic Diseases
The new Nutritional Facts Panel aims to assist consumers in making informed food choices, taking into account the links between diet and chronic diseases. By providing more detailed and relevant information, the updated label intends to support healthier dietary decision-making.
Islam et al. (2019) demonstrated a relationship between a high intake of saturated fats and trans fats and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by raising LDL cholesterol levels, a risk factor for CVD. The new nutritional facts panel addresses concern connection by integrating separate values for saturated fats and trans fats, allowing consumers to identify products with lower amounts of these fats (FDA, 2023).
According to Neelakantan et al. (2021), the consumption of excessive added sugars is associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and CVD. Added sugars provide extra calories and contribute to weight gain and metabolic disturbances. FDA (2023) new labels emphasize the total and added sugar content separately, empowering consumers to make more informed choices regarding their sugar intake and potentially reduce the risk of chronic diseases related to excessive sugar consumption.
Obesity is a major risk factor for CVD and type 2 diabetes (Malik & Hu, 2022). The new Nutritional Facts Panel indirectly supports the goal of addressing obesity by providing clearer information on calorie content and serving sizes, enabling individuals to monitor and control their energy intake. By making informed decisions using the label, individuals can better manage their weight and potentially reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with obesity.
While the new nutritional facts panel aligns intending to promote informed food choices, it is important to note some limitations. Egnell et al. (2020) showed that individuals may not always understand or effectively utilize the information provided on food labels.
Factors such as low health literacy, difficulty interpreting numerical values, and limited awareness of the relationships between nutrients and health outcomes can hinder the effectiveness of the nutritional facts panel. To enhance the impact of the new label, additional educational efforts are necessary. Public health campaigns, nutrition education programs, and interventions targeted at improving health literacy can help individuals understand and apply the information on the Nutritional Facts Panel.
Egnell, M., Galan, P., Farpour-Lambert, N. J., Talati, Z., Pettigrew, S., Hercberg, S., & Julia, C. (2020). Compared to other front-of-pack nutrition labels, the Nutri-Score emerged as the most efficient to inform Swiss consumers about the nutritional quality of food products. PloS One, 15(2), e0228179. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228179
FDA. (2023). Changes to the Nutrition Facts label. U.S. Food and Drug Administration; FDA. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/changes-nutrition-facts-label
Islam, M. A., Amin, M. N., Siddiqui, S. A., Hossain, M. P., Sultana, F., & Kabir, M. R. (2019). Trans fatty acids and lipid profile: A serious risk factor to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome, 13(2), 1643–1647. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2019.03.033
Malik, V. S., & Hu, F. B. (2022). The role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the global epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases. Nature Reviews. Endocrinology, 18(4), 205–218. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41574-021-00627-6
Neelakantan, N., Park, S. H., Chen, G.-C., & van Dam, R. M. (2021). Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, weight gain, and risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in Asia: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews, 80(1), 50–67. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuab010
Roberto, C. A., Ng, S. W., Ganderats-Fuentes, M., Hammond, D., Barquera, S., Jauregui, A., & Taillie, L. S. (2021). The influence of front-of-package nutrition labeling on consumer behavior and product reformulation. Annual Review of Nutrition, 41(1), 529–550. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-111120-094932
Nutrition: Food Label Assignment Instructions
In the United States the FDA has been regulating food labels since the 1930’s. In the 1990’s the Nutritional Facts Panel was added to the labeling requirements. In 2016 the information required on the Nutritional Facts Panel was updated based on scientific evidence linking diet and chronic diseases. These new labels were being phased in, so you now find products with both types of labels on your grocery store shelves. Manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales were required to switch to the new label by January 1, 2020; manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales had until January 1, 2021 to comply. Manufacturers of single-ingredient sugars such as honey and maple syrup and certain cranberry products had until July 1, 2021 to make the changes.
Answer the following questions:
- In addition to the Nutritional Facts Panel, what other information is required to be on a food product label?
- Compare and contrast the original Nutritional Facts Panel with the new Nutritional Facts Panel (see example below). List the items that are the same and list the items that are different.
- Consider the links between diet and chronic diseases (such as saturated fats and trans fats with cardiovascular disease or added sugars with obesity and obesity with cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, etc.) In light of these links, the purpose of the new label is to make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices. Do you believe the new Nutritional Facts Panel meets this goal? Why or why not?