What the FDA's Proposed Nutrition Label Changes Mean For Your Food Business

Posted on March 03, 2014 by

Late last week, Michelle Obama and the FDA announced a proposal to update the nutrition facts label, which was introduced 20 years ago, with the aim to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions.

Overall, the changes are very positive and according to the FDA's estimates will save the country about 15 times the cost of implementation ($30BN compared to $2BN). We'll go over the timeline, key changes, what they mean for food businesses, and what they mean for ReciPal users.

The REALLY SHORT Summary

  • The FDA released a proposal to update the nutrition fact label. There's a 90-day comment period. A final rule will be published in roughly a year (March 2014). Companies have 2 years to comply once the final rule is published.
  • The label redesign: greater focus on calories, added sugars, and serving size, more realistic serving sizes (20 oz sodas = 1 serving), updated and greater design focus on daily values.
  • ReciPal will have the updated labels available as soon as they're published.

Side-by-side of Original and Proposed vertical nutrition fact label

Original label on the left - Proposed label on the right

Timeline: What Just Happened and What Happens Next?

What was released on Thursday was a proposal, which will technically be released on Monday March 3, 2014. It's not a final rule and hasn't gone into effect yet.

There will be a 90-day comment period for the public to review the proposal and submit thoughts and suggestions, both positive and negative.

The final rule will be published roughly a year from now based on submitted comments, although there is no set date.

Once the final rule is published, it will become effective 60 days afterwards, and businesses are expected to comply with the new rules within 2 years of the effective date. That means, everyone should have their labels updated roughly 3 years from now.

The Changes: Content, Design, Data

A lot of the changes are based on our improved understanding of nutrition and its affect on our health. You can see most of the changes in the side-by-side image above. A few of the major changes that probably jump out:

  • Much greater focus on calories and serving size, especially total calories. Bigger, bolder fonts.
  • %DV moved to the left side of the label to increase emphasis on daily values.
  • Inclusion of "Added Sugars" to the label, displayed under the old Sugars.

We can't cover every change, but there are a few smaller ones that are important as well:

  • Inclusion of the amounts of each vitamin/mineral as well as the %DV.
  • Removal of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which are replaced with Potassium and Vitamin D.
  • Change in the recommended daily values for most vitamins, minerals, and sodium.
  • Change in the suggested serving size for several categories of foods - notably packaged drinks and ice cream. What was once a 2 or 3 serving drink will now likely be a single serving (and lots more calories).
  • Removal of the "Calories from Fat" section of the label.

What it Means For Your Food Business

For the time being, it doesn't really mean much. It's just a proposal, so the changes aren't going into affect for at least a year and you will have a full 3 years to update your labels.

The main hit seems to be on high calorie products and sugary drinks that are split into multiple servings on their packages but really consumed in a single sitting. The soft-drink lobby groups are probably spending multiples of their budget combating this proposal, so it'll be interesting to see what the final rule will be.

If your product is a multiple serving sugary beverage, you may want to take a look at the proposal itself and dive deeper.

Otherwise, just get ready to redo your labels in the next three years.

What it Means For ReciPal Users

At ReciPal we're 100% on top of the proposal and rule changes and actually quite excited for it. We think it's a refreshing, but not huge departure in design, with an appropriate shift in focus to key nutrients. It was also about time for an update in daily values.

Once the rule is finalized we'll have the new label options ready very quickly. You'll be able to go to your account and get your products' updated labels just as you could the previous ones.

There may be some adjustment necessary (as mentioned above) for custom ingredients that didn't include the new required ingredients of Potassium and Vitamin D. Other than that, it will be a matter of signing in and clicking save.

Parting Words

As we mentioned before, we're quite excited for this overdue update. It will likely have drastic improvements on our country's food choices and resultant health. We're ready to take on the change, and excited to keep helping our customers with the new labels.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email us or leave comments below. We're eager to hear your thoughts and be a part of the continued conversation on this big issue.


About Lev Berlin

Lev Berlin ReciPal SlantShack Author Bio

Lev Berlin is the founder & CEO of ReciPal. Having previously been a founder of SlantShack Jerky, he needed nutrition labels and simple tools to start and run the business. He's read the FDA food labeling code countless times in the process of creating ReciPal and helping small food businesses with their labels. He's reviewed and created thousands of food labels, and been a mentor and guest speaker at food incubators, food business courses, and regulatory conferences, like Brooklyn Foodworks and ICE.

After graduating from Princeton with an engineering degree, Lev was a management consultant, then founder or early employee at half a dozen startups. He loves nothing more than helping other small businesses get off the ground and achieve their goals.


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