US food labels will now display calories per serving and for entire product

Change in accordance with new FDA rules, intended to make consumers aware

By Meenakshi Sushma
Published: Tuesday 07 January 2020

Labels on any food packet in the United States (US) have begun to display calories per serving, in addition to those for the entire product from January 1, 2020, in accordance with the order of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The food label on a packet will now have two columns under ‘nutritional facts’. One will contain nutritional value per serving and the other will be for the total packet.

For instance, in a 50 gram biscuit packet, there are approximately 10 biscuits. Prior to the new rule, the nutritional value would have been calculated only for 50 grams.

But now, under the dual labelling system, the nutritional value per serving would be mentioned. Along with this, the packet would also carry the serving size for which the nutritional value has been calculated.

The new system has been rolled out to create awareness among US consumers.

“We know that Americans are eating differently. The amount of calories and nutrients on the label is required to reflect what people actually eat and drink, and is not a recommendation of what to eat or drink,” Claudine Kavanaugh, director of the office of nutrition and food labeling in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition told media.

The new label will shift the consumers’ view towards calorie intake from a particular product, she added.

In May 2016, FDA issued final rules regarding food labelling and added a few elements which included serving size and provided Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) among others.

On December 31, 2019, FDA announced a final guidance report on food labeling, which would replace the regulator’s 2018 draft guidance on food labeling. 

A manufacturer having an annual turnover of above $10 million was to have complied with the new rule from January 1, 2020. Manufacturers with an annual turnover of less than $10 million, have time till January 1, 2021, to comply with the rule. 

Finalised in mid-2016, the agency delayed implementing the regulations until this month. The FDA has said it would work with manufacturers for the first six months of the year on complying with the new rule rather than taking enforcement action, according to media reports.

On the other hand, India is still waiting for front of the packet labelling (FoPL). It is aimed at making consumers aware of food products that are high in fat, sugar and salt content.

A recent study conducted by Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment tested 33 foods including 14 packaged foods (six types of chips, four types of namkeen, three types of noodles and one soup) and 19 fast foods (eight types of burgers, three types of fries, four types of pizza, four types of sandwich and wraps and one fried chicken).

The results showed that the samples tested were overwhelmingly high in salt and fat.

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