The Food and Drug Administration has finally decided to make some changes to the nutrition facts label in hopes of improving the diets of American consumers. Scanning the label from top to bottom the first difference that will be noticed is the serving size. This will be changed to a more accurate depiction of what is typically consumed, rather than the prior reference amount.
Servings Per Package
The original serving sizes, determined in 1993, have changed throughout the years. It is more likely that when you open a can of soda, you are going to drink the entirety of the beverage, rather than half, as the serving size suggests. Same goes for a bag of chips or a packaged nutrition bar.
Beverages will now be required to list the entire container as the serving size. So, regardless if you choose the 20-ounce beverage or the 12-ounce beverage, both will be labeled as one serving and the nutrition facts will accurately represent the contents of that bottle.
Dual Nutrition Columns
Products that may not necessarily be one serving but can easily be consumed in one sitting with have two columns, one for a serving size, and one for the entire package, listing the nutrition facts for both (1).
Now, instead of whipping out a calculator in the supermarket to calculate the amount of sugar in the entire bottle, it will conveniently be listed for you, eliminating the mistake of consuming twice (or more) that was originally anticipated.
What is a Serving Size?
Approximately 80% of consumers believe that the serving size is how much they should consume of the product for a healthy diet.
Serving size refers to the amount of food that is typically consumed per sitting, standardized into common household measures for easy comparison to similar products. Nutritional content is in reference to the serving on the nutrition facts label (2,3,4).
In 2008, 64% of consumers used serving size information, but the majority did not fully understand the content, leading to misuse of information (5). Now, 87% of adults use the nutrition facts panel and 41% find the serving size information to be very important. The percentage increased for millennials (6).
How Will This Effect Consumers? - The Benefits and Downfalls
Studies show conflicting evidence of how this will impact consumers. A study published by Public Health Nutrition showed that customers prefer to have the entire package labeled as the serving size when eating an item that can easily be consumed in one sitting, such as a single serve bag of chips or a nutrition bar. This allows them to accurately identify calories in the product (7).
One study conducted by Appetite showed that packaged foods with a larger serving size resulted in consumers eating less, this could lead to a lower intake of high-calorie foods and positively contribute to the problem of obesity in America (8).
Counteracting this positive attribute, another study by Appetite has shown that foods with larger serving sizes listed on the package tend to serve and purchase more food for themselves and for others, which could lead to overconsumption (9).
Consumers must look at their entire diet when selecting and purchasing foods, not one product or factor. Education is necessary for consumers to make informed decisions about their food choices. Check out these references for more information about serving sizes.
1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. 2016. Access: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm
2. U.S. Government Publishing Office. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Nutrition Labeling of Food. §101.9. Access: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=4bf49f997b04dcacdfbd637db9aa5839&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&n=pt21.2.101&r=PART#se21.2.101_19
3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. 2016. Access. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm#serving_size
4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nutrition Labeling; Questions L1 through L153. 2013. 7: L57. Access: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064904.htm#ServingSize
5. Zhang Y, Kantor MA, Juan W. Usage and Understanding of Serving Size Information on Food Labels in the United States. Am J Health Promot. 2016 Jan-Feb;30(3):181-7. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.130117-QUAN-30.
6. Packaged Facts. Functional Foods: Key Trends by Product Categories and Benefits. 2015. Access:http://www.packagedfacts.com/Functional-Foods-Key-8779270/
7. Jones AC1, Vanderlee L1, White CM1, Hobin EP1, Bordes I1, Hammond D1. 'How many calories did I just eat?' An experimental study examining the effect of changes to serving size information on nutrition labels. Public Health Nutr. 2016 Apr 8:1-6. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980016000665
8. Hydock C, Wilson A, Easwar K. The effects of increased serving sizes on consumption. Appetite. 2016.101:71-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.156.
9. Dallas SK, Liu PJ, Ubel PA. Potential problems with increasing serving sizes on the Nutrition Facts label. Appetite. 2015. 95:577-84. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.08.012.