May 23, 2016

FDA Issues New Rules Around Food Labeling

After years of debate and speculation, the FDA finally released on Friday their final ruling regarding what food labels need to contain moving forward.  Here’s what you need to know….

Do I need to be worried about these changes?

This biggest question many food entrepreneurs have so let’s start with it.  The changes you see need to be implemented on food labels within the next two years for companies that make more than $10 million annually.  Medium-sized companies have an additional year to comply and small businesses, those with less than 100 employees and less than 100,000 units sold annually, can file for a small business exemption (click here for information about the small business nutritional labeling exemption and how to file with the FDA).

If you fall under the Small Business exemption you may not totally be able to breathe a sigh of relief though.  Depending on how and where you sell your products, you may have already found that your customers, buyers, retailers, brokers, distributors, etc want nutrition labels because they want access to that information.  Should you choose to include nutrition labels on your products for these or other reasons, those labels will need to comply with the new FDA rules within the next three years.

What about if I’m a food truck, cafe, or restaurant?

The FDA requires nutrition labeling of food items sold through restaurants, food trucks, cafes, or other retail establishments if you have more than 20 stores (this could be a combination of food trucks and store fronts) all operating under the same brand name and serving similar menu items.  Otherwise nutrition labeling is not required by the FDA.

So what’s changed?

Here’s a look at the future nutrition label which was provided by

fda food nutrition labels


Serving Sizes

The big things to be aware of is that the focus is now on helping consumers more easily identify and understand how many servings are in the package and what the calorie count is.

The serving size issue is a big concern as what is oftentimes reflected on the package is not a realistic serving size for what a person actually consumes leading consumers to believe that they are eating less calories than they really are.  The FDA mandates that nutrition labels accurately use serving sizes that are realistic for US consumers.  For example, you can’t put your serving size as one potato chip because there is pretty much no way the majority of consumers would eat just one chip and put the bag away.

Calorie & Nutrition Counts

Speaking of chips and other products that could be eaten in one sitting or in several servings, in those cases food producers must include duel-column ‘per serving’ and ‘per package’ calorie counts and nutrients on the label so that consumers have a better idea of what it is they are actually eating.

Added Sugars

The other big area of change is with the inclusion of an ‘Added Sugars’ nutrition line.  In the past, ‘sugars’ have been listed on the nutrition label but just as a gram measurement.  This hasn’t told consumers how much additional sugar has been added to the product and how much that added sugar added up to the total recommended daily allowance for a healthy diet and lifestyle as based on medical research.

The new labels will require that food producers not only share how many grams of sugar are in a product, but how much of that is ‘added sugars’ in the form of sweeteners such as sugars, syrups, etc.  Additionally, the new labels will also call out what percentage of ‘added sugars’  daily value will be consumed in said serving size/package size.  The FDA believes that this is an important component in trying to combat obesity and recommends that the public not consume more than 10% of their total daily calories from added sugars.

These are the biggest changes for food producers to be concerned about but you can read the complete list of changes at the FDA’s website by clicking here.

So we need to make these changes, what do I need to do today?

First, take a deep breath.  As mentioned earlier, you may or may not be impacted by these changes so think through, strategically, where your business is now and where you see it being in 2-3 years as you may or may not even need nutrition labels to begin with.

After that, remember that these rulings are brand new as of last week so most nutrition analysis software isn’t even capable of calculating the needed information and generating a label that meets the new design requirements yet.  The best thing you can do is look at your packaging inventory and determine how much packaging you have on hand that has the current nutrition labeling on it.  Make a plan, based on that information and your knowledge of how quickly you’ll run through that packaging, on when you’ll look to get new labels made and reorder new packaging.  The worst thing you can do, since time is on your side right now, is trash a bunch of existing packaging as that’s money you can never recoup.  Plan to use up all that packaging and then when the time comes to reorder, make the nutrition label changes at the same time.

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