Since the FDA’s 2016 announcement of new Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels, there’s been a whirlwind of activity surrounding relabeling and reformulating for food and supplement manufacturers. The changes affect Daily Values, nutrient units, mandatory nutrient labeling, serving sizes, added sugars, and even font size (for calories). Lots of changes mean lots of questions for manufacturers. Here, we review the changes to Daily Values and units.
Daily Values vs. Percent Daily Values
The Daily Value (DV) of a nutrient is simply a recommended daily intake level for that nutrient. DVs are based on an intake of 2,000 calories per day for adults.
A Percent Daily Value (%DV) is a value used on Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels to show how much of the daily recommendation for that nutrient is supplied by a serving of that food or dietary supplement. %DVs allow consumers to see how nutrients in their foods and supplements fit into their overall diet. Consumers can use %DVs to make comparisons between products, as well as calculate how much of each nutrient they’ve consumed in a day.
Note that some nutrients (such as fat, cholesterol, and sodium) have upper limits, while others (such as vitamins and minerals) have lower limits. For those with upper limits, the goal is to consume less than 100% of the DV each day. 100%DV represents a maximum in those cases. For nutrients with lower limits, consumers should strive to consume at least 100% of the DV each day. Here, 100%DV represents the minimum recommended intake.1
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Daily Value Changes
Most of the changes in DVs have occurred to reflect the newest scientific information regarding dietary-related chronic diseases common in the United States. Read our Guide to Nutrients of Concern to learn more. Below are some of the nutrients that have daily value changes.
- Fiber - The DV increases from 25 to 28 grams. The DV has been raised due to research linking high fiber intake to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Calcium - The DV increases from 1,000 to 1,300 mg. This is because a high intake of calcium builds bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- Potassium - The DV increases from 3,500 mg to 4,700 mg. Potassium lowers blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The labeling of potassium has also changed from voluntary to mandatory.
- Total Fat - Surprisingly, the DV increases from 65 to 78 g. In addition, the “Calories from Fat” declaration has been removed from the label. The FDA hopes this will encourage consumers to focus more on the type of fat than the amount of fat they consume.
- Sodium - The DV for sodium decreases from 2,400 to 2,300 mg per day. Since lowering the DV for sodium makes the %DV higher, it may prompt manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt they add to their products.
- Added Sugars - The DV has been set to 50 g for this new addition to the label. This is equivalent to 10% of the total daily caloric intake.
- Vitamin C - The DV increases from 60 to 90 mg.
- Phosphorus - The DV increases from 1,000 to 1,250 mg.
- Vitamin K - The DV increases from 80 to 120 mcg.
- Magnesium - The DV increases from 400 to 420 mg.
- Manganese - The DV increases from 2 to 2.3 mg.2
In addition, vitamin A, vitamin E, and folate now have lower DVs, in addition to new units. Vitamin D, which has also undergone a unit change, now has a higher DV.
There are no longer International Units (IUs) for vitamins A, D, and E. These have been replaced with mcg and mg. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Labeling Committee recommended this change in order to be consistent with the new Dietary Reference Intake reports.
- Vitamin A - The DV and units change from 5,000 IU to 900 mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE). The unit was updated since IU for vitamin A does not represent the correct carotene to retinol equivalency ratio.
- Vitamin D - The DV and units change from 400 IU to 20 mcg. Vitamin D labeling has also changed from voluntary to mandatory.
- Vitamin E - The DV and units change from 30 IU to 15 mg alpha-tocopherol. Alpha-tocopherol is used because it is the only type of vitamin E that stays in the blood and is biologically active.
- Folate - The DV and units change from 400 mcg to 400 mcg Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE). The formula for DFE is the following: 1 DFE = 1 mcg food folate + (1.7 x mcg synthetic folic acid). DFE accounts for the greater bioavailability of synthetic folic acid in fortified foods and supplements compared to natural foods.3
How Will These Changes Affect You?
These changes to DVs and units are likely to go unnoticed by consumers amidst the numerous other changes to the Nutrition Facts label. However, the changes may present some real concerns and challenges for manufacturers.
One concern is that the change in DVs will affect the ability to make nutrient claims. In order for a product to be a considered a “good source” of a nutrient, the product needs to contain 10-19 %DV of that nutrient. And, if the product contains 20% or more, it can claim to be “high” in that nutrient or an “excellent source.”
Now that the DVs are changing, some products might not be eligible to make these claims. When DVs increase, the %DVs of the original product will decrease, meaning the product might no longer contain enough of that nutrient to meet the label claim.
For products that claim to be “low” in a nutrient (i.e., containing 5% or less of that nutrient), a decrease in DV can trigger a labeling problem. When DVs decrease, %DVs will increase. Using sodium as an example, a product that is originally “low sodium” might not be considered “low” anymore.
Companies will have to choose to either remove the claim from their packaging or reformulate the product in order to continue meeting that claim.
Overall, the purpose of the new nutrition label is to help consumers make better choices about the foods they eat and understand how those foods contribute to a healthy diet. For more information about the new required label changes, download our Comprehensive Guide to the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels.
1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, Jan. 3). How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm
2. Federal Register. (2016, May 27). Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels. 81 FR 337741. Retrieved from https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-11867
3. Federal Register. (2016, May 27). Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels. 81 FR 337741. Retrieved from https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-11867