What Do The New Food Labels Mean For Dairy?

June 15, 2016

The first major revision of the iconic food label in over two decades was recently released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since the understanding of what constitutes a healthy eating plan has evolved over the last 20 years, the label has gotten a makeover. The changes will impact virtually every packaged food in the supermarket.

The most noticeable change is that calories and serving size will have increased prominence. More subtle changes include the addition of absolute amounts of vitamins and minerals as well as a revised footnote at the bottom of the label. Vitamin D and potassium, determined to be nutrients of public health importance, replace vitamins C and A as required nutrients on the label.

Many of the Daily Reference Values (DRV) and Recommended Daily Intakes (RDI), which are used to calculate percent Daily Value (%DV,) are changing to reflect updated recommendations for the nutrient needs for the U.S. population. These include fat, carbohydrate, sodium, fiber, vitamin D, potassium and calcium.

The newest addition to the panel is Added Sugars, which is now listed as a separate line below Total Sugars. The DRV for Added Sugars is established as 50g or 10 percent of daily calories for a 2,000 calorie reference diet.

What does this mean for dairy foods?

It’s important to recognize that dairy foods aren’t changing, but the way they are labeled will be.

Dairy foods continue to provide essential nutrients to the American diet. Due to the changes in DRVs, we expect milk to still be a source of 9 essential nutrients, including protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. Check the label of the dairy foods you enjoy for complete nutrition information.

An increase in the DRV for fat from 30 percent to 35 percent of calories (78 grams for a 2,000 calorie reference diet) will result in a slight reduction in the %DV of fat for some whole milk dairy products.

Flavored milk, flavored yogurt and ice cream labels will now provide information on the amount of Added Sugars. While people should consider the amount of Added Sugar in the context of the food’s overall nutritional profile, small amounts can increase the palatability and acceptance of nutrient dense foods like low-fat flavored milk and yogurt.

Another significant change for yogurt is the serving size. By law, FDA must establish Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC), the basis for the serving size, which reflect actual consumption patterns of Americans. The RACC and the serving size isn’t a recommendation, but rather a reflection of the amount of a particular food item that Americans usually eat. The serving size for yogurt will decrease from 8 ounces to 6 ounces, which reflects the container size of the majority of single-serve yogurt containers available on the market. The serving size for milk and cheese will remain the same.

Large food companies are required to comply with these new labeling rules by July 2018, while smaller companies must comply by July 2019. You may begin seeing the new label on your favorite dairy foods even sooner.

The Nutrition Facts label provides important nutrition information to assist people in making informed choices about foods they purchase and consume. For nutrition professionals, the new label provides an opportunity to educate your clients on how to use the Nutrition Facts to choose nutrient-dense foods, like low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt, that fit a healthy eating pattern. 

Check out these infographics to help you educate your clients on the impact these changes have on milk, cheese and yogurt.