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Food for Thought: Changes coming to Nutrition Facts labels

by Caitlin Alexander, Anchor/Producer

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — With just a week left for Thanksgiving grocery shopping, some shoppers might soon be turning to the Nutrition Facts label on popular products.

In May 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced an update to the classic Nutrition Facts label.

While it is likely too soon to see the new label during this year’s Thanksgiving shopping, KTTC examined some of the upcoming changes and what shoppers can look for in the meantime.

The new label is more sensitive to the tie between diet and health problems, like heart disease.

The idea is to help shoppers make more informed food choices.

It will be a requirement by July 26, 2018. Manufacturers making less than $10 million annually have an extra year to comply.

KTTC met with Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian Jess Harke to learn more about the changes. She said the changes make the label easier to understand.

“This hasn’t been updated in 20 years,” she said.

Harke pointed out several changes between the current label and the new one, including bigger, bolder lettering for calories. Serving size is also bigger and bolder.

That change aims to make shoppers more aware of how much they are actually consuming.

The new label swaps out the lines for “Vitamin A” and “Vitamin C” in the nutrients required area for “Vitamin D” and “Potassium.”

“Vitamin D and Potassium are important to heart health, and they’re [FDA] noticing that we’re not getting enough of that in our diets right now,” Harke said.

Another notable change is an extra line, under “Sugars” to specify how much “Added Sugar” is in the product.

The FDA reports it is tough to meet nutrient needs and stay within calorie limits when shoppers overdo it on added sugars, meaning sugars that are not naturally occurring.

“Right now, you can’t differentiate on the label which ones are added, which ones aren’t. You have to look at the ingredients listed,” Harke explained.

It is something shopper Bruce Nelson looks out for.

“No added sugar on some of these products, because we’re on a Weight Watchers program, and sugars really adds a lot of points to your program,” he said.

Right now, Nelson uses a dieting app to check. Soon, he will not have to.

KTTC examined at a can of cranberry sauce. The Nutrition Facts label listed 24 grams of sugar. Without the new label’s addition of “Added Sugars,” it is not clear how much of the 24 grams are, in fact, added sugars. The ingredients show the product contained high fructose corn syrup.

There are also adjustments to the “Total Fat” area of the label.

The FDA states, “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.”

Harke explained that there are heart healthy fats.

Some shoppers with concerns about high blood pressure look for “Sodium” on the label.

The FDA is updating several daily values, including for sodium, based on newer scientific evidence. Daily values are amounts of nutrients to consume or not exceed.

Even though the updated label might not be on this year’s Thanksgiving day items, Harke hopes it could at least give shoppers some food for thought.

“They’re all so important,” she said.

For more information on the changes coming to Nutrition Facts labels, visit the FDA’s website by clicking here.

Caitlin Alexander

Caitlin Alexander

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