Nathan Dube

By: Nathan Dube on January 9th, 2020

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Food Packaging Update: Understanding The New FDA Food Labeling Guidelines

Packaging Design | Food Packaging

Back in 2016, the FDA released a new set of requirements for nutrition and ingredient labeling for food products in the USA. Companies manufacturing food products that make $10 million or more in annual sales are required to have the new labeling in place no later than January 1, 2020. Companies that manufacture food products that are making less than $10 million dollars per year are to meet the same requirement by January 1, 2021.


So what has changed in food labeling per the FDA? How do these changes effect companies and consumers? In the article below, we will review the changes to the classic nutritional labeling we have all come to recognize over the years and ponder what these changes mean.


Nutrition Facts Label - What


1. Servings and Serving Size


The first change that the FDA has made to the nutrition label is the information listing the serving size for the food contained within the packaging. On the old label, the text was small and the same size as the text describing the amount of servings per container. On the new label, the servings and serving size both sport a notably larger font written in bold text. This has been done to provide a greater understanding of what the appropriate serving size of food for the particular item is. With the new larger text, it is expected to help consumers make better choices in their consumption habits.


2. Calories


In the same fashion as the serving size (only more so), the calorie content of food products has also been altered with a significantly larger and bold font. Considering the importance of counting calories and the rapid rise of the various hundreds of dieting apps that help you to track your intake of calories throughout the day, it should come as no surprise that the FDA is making this specific information particularly easy to find. With glaringly big text, it is pretty clear that the FDA is trying to help people pay close attention to how many calories they are consuming with the food they choose to ingest.


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3. Sugar


While the size and style of the font for sugar has not changed, a new line item under "total carbohydrates" has appeared. This information which was completely absent from the previous incarnation of the nutrition label now alerts consumers to how many grams of sugar are added sugars (rather than naturally occurring sugars). With more and more health studies showing just how bad processed sugars are for the human body, it would make sense that the FDA felt it important to ensure this information was available to people.


4. Daily Values


If you are to compare an old label from a product side by side with the new version of the label, you will notice that some of the daily value percentages have gone up or down slightly. It appears that the FDA has made it a point to fine-tune these numbers in an effort to provide more sound information on the food products that we are consuming on a daily basis.


5. Required Nutrients


Next in line for the FDA's overhaul of nutritional information is the required nutrients. You will notice in the table below which compares the old label to the new one that the required nutrients have changed and they now have "the actual amounts declared" for each nutrient. As to why they made this change the FDA has this to say:



  • "The list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared is being updated. Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis."


  • "The footnote is changing to better explain what percent Daily Value means. It will read: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”


Additionally, there have been some more subtle changes to the guidelines for nutritional information and labeling for food products that have been implemented by the FDA including but not limited to:


  • "While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” is being removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.


  • Daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D are being updated based on newer scientific evidence from the Institute of Medicine and other reports such as the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, which was used in developing the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the percent Daily Value (% DV) that manufacturers include on the label. The %DV helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet."


Complete and in-depth information for each of these changes, the ultimate reasons behind them and additional information about the compliance dates, FAQs, final rules, fact sheets, and other downloads can be acquired through the FDA's website here.


What Does This Mean For Food Packaging?


As mentioned above, these changes must be in place by either January 1, 2020, or January 1, 2021, depending on the size and annual revenue of your company. Originally, the compliance date was set for July 2018 but was eventually pushed back to January of 2020. However, many companies have already deployed the new labels well in advance of the final compliance dates.


Simply stated, failing to meet the compliance dates will result in potential fines, legal issues and a host of other headaches for companies who try to dance around the labeling redesign. Ultimately, these changes are relatively minor from a design standpoint and should be fairly easy to implement for many companies already labeling their food with the old version of the nutritional label.



When it comes to a companies packaging, there will be virtually no change as the size of the iconic yet bland black and white rectangular label will likely have little if any impact on the packaging of most manufacturers.


Moving in to 2020, we will be able to see if these labels have any real effect on the consumer base or if these changes fall flat in their effort to help better educate consumers about the nutritional value or lack-there-of in regards to the foods they choose to eat. Regardless of how it all turns out, time is running out for food manufacturers and we will all start seeing more and more of the revised labels on store shelves very soon.

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About Nathan Dube

As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.