Nutrition Facts Label Makeover
As a registered dietitian with many years in foodservice operations, I have had my fair share of nutrition information requests. While the trends in nutrition come and go, access to knowledge of food and recipe nutrient content always remains. We see many foodservice operations today, servicing both patient therapeutic needs as well as visitor and employee retail dining and catering. This opens a plethora of opportunity to educate on the content of food. Retail operations may share food nutrient information on digital menu boards, buffet placards, table tents and even purchase receipts. Clinical inpatients may receive nutrient information on meal tray tickets, patient education materials and through use of in-room meal ordering systems. One of the most popular ways to share the nutrient content of food and prepared items is by food labeling. As technology continues to advance, labeling never seems to get old, just more robust.
Americans have utilized labeling, specifically the Nutrition Facts Label, for over twenty years as a “go to” resource for guidance in weight management and disease prevention. In a press release last year, the FDA announced that the Nutrition Facts Label will be undergoing a makeover. The new labeling guidelines are an attempt to both modernize the label and make the nutrition information more practical for the American diet. The new label will feature calorie content listed in larger, bolder font. Consumers will now have access to the content of added sugars in a product. Vitamin D and potassium will also be found on the label both in grams and percent Daily Value. One of the biggest changes to the label pertains to serving sizes. The FDA seeks to report serving sizes based on actual consumption versus ideal consumption. The last serving size requirements were released in 1993; Americans consume more than previously published serving sizes. Packaged items, containing between one to two servings will now be listed as one serving with nutrient information relative to consumption of the entire package. Other multi-serving food products will display dual columns listing both nutrients per serving and per package. This initiative has received mixed reviews. Some fear the practicality will result in higher calorie consumption. For example, Americans will assume it’s OK to eat the entire package since it’s just one serving. Others feel that nutrient information will be clearer to consumers, resulting in healthier decisions. The FDA is requiring food manufacturers to adopt the guidelines by the year 2018.
With the new labeling guidelines taking effect by the year 2018, foodservice operations must begin to adopt the change. Whether foodservice operations are labeling prepared products or printing or electronically displaying food nutrient information, the FDA guidelines must be considered. Foodservice software solutions allow operations to electronically house and manage food and recipe information including that of nutrient content. The efficiency of these systems lie in the automatic nutrient analysis which recalculates after any changes or alterations are made to the recipes or serving sizes of prepared items. For foodservice software solution users, the compliance to the new labeling guidelines should be a painless one. As software allows operations to instantly recalculate nutrients and display necessary information in the new labeling format, these users are ready to embrace the new change.
Article by: Liz Levenduski, MS, RD, LD, Product Manager; Fusion, 1st Quarter, 2017