Nutrition Facts Labels Are Getting Renovated to Reflect Growing Health Concerns

In 1994, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring companies to label packaged foods with the “Nutrition Facts” label, under the Nutrition Label and Education Act of 1990. Since then, the nutritional content of everything from chewing gum to gourmet jars of pesto became well known, thanks to the listing of ingredients on the backs of food items. Over the years, changes have been made to the items listed on the label, such as in 2006 when trans fat content became the first substantial addition to the Nutrition Facts label in its more than ten years in circulation. Today (May 20), some more changes to the label have been announced, and they are one of the most significant overhauls to the food-labeling system in United States history.

On the FDA’s website, the changes being introduced are outlined and cover everything from the label’s aesthetics (the type size for certain words will be increased, including “calories”) to updates in what we know about nutrition and health. According to NPR, one of the most significant changes to the label is the appearance of “added sugars,” which the FDA says it is including because “[s]cientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.” In “The ‘Added Sugar’ Label Is Coming To A Packaged Food Near You,” Dan Charles includes soda as an illustrative example of the “added sugars” value. “[A] 20-ounce bottle of Coke could show 65 grams of added sugar, representing 130 percent of a recommended daily intake,” a fact important to point out as more and more Americans are suffering from diseases like diabetes. According to a National Diabetes 2014 statistics report, 29.1 million Americans – that’s a staggering 9.3% of the population – have diabetes.

Added Sugars

Conversations about wellness through better nutrition have always been present in the U.S., but continued spikes in illnesses related to poor eating habits have forced the country to take a good look at itself, even within the Hip-Hop community. The recent passing of Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor served as a reminder that kidney disease and similar conditions resulting from diabetes are fatal, and he often mentioned his addiction to sugary drinks like soda. Similarly, Freeway’s recent documentary detailing his own struggles with kidney disease has helped raise awareness. Awareness is an integral part of the campaign to prevent diseases like diabetes because of the 29.1 million living with it in the United States, approximately 8 million are undiagnosed. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 13.2% of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diagnosed diabetes.

The labels will become required fare for food companies beginning in July.