The Food and Drug Administration created the Nutrition Facts label in 1993.
The serving sizes that appear on labels today were originally determined by how much food people consumed during the periods 1977-1978 and 1987-1988.
Now that’s about to change – and possibly not for the better. This iteration of the label is based upon similar surveys of consumption, which are based on data collected from the National Health & Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2003 to 2008. The concept of the new label is to accurately offer shoppers nutritional information based on more accurate sizes of what they actually consume. For example, the serving size for ice cream was ½ cup – now its 2/3 of a cup (and that was calculated before the pandemic!). Yogurt previously was sold in 8-ounce cups on our supermarket shelves – but today most yogurts are 6 ounces (or less) and as a result, the FDA has changed yogurt’s serving size to 6 ounces.
The FDA has also changed the criteria for labeling based on package size. With the updated requirements, more food products previously labeled as more than one serving are now required to be labeled as just one serving. Why? The reason actually has merit as people are more likely to eat or drink the entire container or item in one sitting. Examples include a 20-ounce can of soda, and a 15-ounce can of soup. Many larger muffins that were previously labeled as two or even three servings will now be labeled as a single serving since that’s how most of us eat them.
If the package contains more than one serving the Nutrition Facts must contain the single-serving information as well as the listing for the entire package. There is a lot of valuable information on our food and beverage package labels – but according to Statista, in a survey conducted April 2021 of almost 1,000 US adults, just 40% of people said they look at the calories count, 28% look at total sugars, 24% sodium and as we go down the list of nutrients – the amounts decline – in fact just 9% say they look at the amount of servings per container.
We don’t need more confusion – what we need is to empower shoppers to read the entire nutrition facts panel if we truly want to change the health of America.