More on the New Nutrition Labels

Nutrition LabelThere are improvements. But no unlabeled fluoride please! Action Alert!
The White House and FDA have just released their guidance to revise the ubiquitous Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts panels. Our lead article this week discusses the backdoor attempt, through these new rules, to ban folate from supplements. We have an especially urgent Action Alert on this. But there is more contained in the 109-page guidance, some of which we commend.

  • Added sugars revealed. Added sugars are any sugars (sucrose, fructose, etc.) added during processing. So while the sugar found in an apple would be considered naturally occurring, agave—a sweetener isolated from cactus—added to another product would be considered an added sugar. It will be listed as a subsection of total sugars, though expect a big fight from Big Food on this particular item.
  • More nutrient disclosures. The panels will now indicate how much vitamin D and potassium are in foods (calcium and iron will continue to be listed). Listing both vitamin D and potassium on the panel will help underscore their importance.
  • Actual nutrient amounts will be listed, instead of just Daily Values (Daily Values refers to how much of a nutrient the FDA recommends for the average adult). Since the FDA’s DVs are based on extremely low recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, they can be misleading; listing actual nutrient amounts will provide consumers with more useful information. This change will apply to dietary supplement labels, too.
  • Calories will be in larger and bolder type.
  • “Calories from fat” will no longer be listed. This is good, because it recognizes that all fats aren’t created equal, and shouldn’t be lumped together.

Neither good nor bad:

  • More realistic serving sizes. America’s portion sizes have ballooned so much in the past few decades that serving sizes will be adjusted. For example, the current serving size on a pint of ice cream is currently only ½ cup; this will be adjusted to 1 cup.


  • Under the new rules, sugar alcohols don’t have to be disclosed under “added sugars,” unless the food is making a “sugar free” claim. This is a slight improvement over the old rules, where foods labeled “sugar free” could contain sugar alcohols without listing it on the nutrition panel. However, we’re concerned that the sugar alcohol “free pass” could become a big loophole for some artificial sweeteners devised by industry.
  • Nutrition panels aren’t currently permitted to list fluoride content. The FDA says it is considering whether that rule should be changed to allow voluntary listing, or whether there should be a mandatory listing whenever a claim about fluoride content is being made. As fluoride is a dangerous neurotoxin, we believe all nutrition labels should reveal the amount of fluoride in foods.
  • The FDA agrees that we need more vitamin C and D, and that the DVs for those vitamins will be revised upwards. However, they will still be very low—for example, the DV of vitamin D will be 800 IU (20 mcg), when the optimum amount is at least 1,000 to 5,000 IU a day. It is ridiculous to recommend the same amount for a tiny infant and an obese adult. We need to tell the FDA to no longer follow the Institute of Medicine’s absurdly low one-size-fits-all recommendations.

Big Food is of course all over the proposed new labels. They claim that transitioning to the new labels could cost $2 billion (to put that into perspective: Nestlé alone makes $100 billion in annual profits). We also learned from the Washington state GMO labeling push that industry wildly overestimates how much labeling changes will cost. Food companies change their packaging all the time, and for most companies, adding a new nutrition label would happen during a normal package update.
Big Food prefers that the FDA leave the traditional nutrition facts panel as is, and instead let manufacturers implement voluntary, front-of-package labeling, including voluntary GMO labeling.
To generate public and congressional support for voluntary nutrition labeling, the industry-funded Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (the same group that appeared to illegally collect and spend $7 million on the Washington State GMO labeling initiative) has committed up to $50 million dollars to “Facts Up Front,” their campaign to promote voluntary front-of-package labeling.
Here’s what Big Food’s labeling would look like:


Looks clear and reasonable, right? Except that it:

  • Doesn’t differentiate between added and naturally occurring sugars;
  • Provides no context for how much sugar people should be consuming; and
  • Continues to demonize saturated fat, even though saturated fat enhances the immune system and plays many other important functions.

Action Alert! Tell the FDA that fluoride disclosure should be mandatory, and that their Daily Values are wholly inadequate. In addition, make them hold to their decision to require mandatory labeling instead of allowing industry to thwart the process with their voluntary labeling scheme. Please send your message immediately!


And if you missed our urgent Action Alert on the attempt to ban folate from supplements buried in these new rules, please take action on that now!



  1. While I believe your organization does very good work, I completely disagree with you about the proposed nutrition label. To me, and many others who care about nutrition, the MOST important item on the current label is calories from fat. Without it, there is no way to know how much fat is in the item. Your comment, “This is good, because it recognizes that all fats aren’t created equal, and shouldn’t be lumped together” is ludicrous because having no idea how much fat is contained in a product is not an improvement. What needs to be changed about the current label is: 1. eliminate the % daily value because this truly has no meaning, 2. Put everything in the same units of measurement so that the average consumer can make a reasonable comparison. It is not helpful when a serving size is in ounces but the nutrients are listed in grams, which is currently the situation, 3. Keep the calories from fat so that the consumer can know if he would be exceeding the amount of fat he should be eating, especially if a cardiac patient. The new label is simply going to be more confusing and provide even less information than the current one, encouraging us all to eat with abandon and become ever fatter.

    1. Start eating a totally organic, whole food diet and stop eating SAD foods and counting anything!

  2. To bad more people won’t read this. I know they will think it is too time consuming, or they don’t care. We should all care what is happening with our foods and also drugs. It doesn’t that much time to care.

  3. I like the new proposed labeling. I read the nutrition labels regularly. That said, I’ve always thought a stoplight symbol on the front of the package would be great for those who don’t have the time or inclination to read labels. Green light would mean you could eat without worry. Yellow light would alert you to eat with caution due to either too high sodium, calories, sugar or whatever. Red, would state, stop and think before eating. The lights could indicate the reason for the color. For example, a yellow liight could have a C, Su, F in the middle to alert you to check the calories, sugar, and fat. ETC.

  4. I am concerned with the increase in regulation at both the federal and state level, Regulatory agencies impose fees and regulations in the name of safety that are very burdensome to small businesses, which are easily carried by large businesses. Fees are imposed to cover the cost of regulatory inspections. I submit that the whole area of regulation needs to be examined and that regulatory agencies need to be well enough funded that they do not need to depend on fee collections to pay their way. I consider the FDA as the worst offender in over regulation. I submit that their activities are much of the cost of health care. And now that they have charge of food safety at the farm level they will add much to the cost of food without any improvement in quality. The FDA heavy handed regulation in the name of safety could all but wipe out organic farming.

  5. Presenting facts so consumers and make an informed purchase is great. But, how do food producer , packors validate to actual nutrients. Recently I was reading the importance of selinium for thyroid T4 to T3 conversion. The auhor , a pharmacist emphasized supplementing because food very greatly in the amounts. I was a peach farmer an did a transnational organic approach. The label should state nutrient value could have a ?% variance. So the consumers at least knows the a valuesare at best an estimate.

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