Marketing and Serving Sizes

The Lempert Report
April 15, 2022

The FDA created the Nutrition Facts label in 1993. The serving sizes that appear on labels  were determined by how much food people consumed in 1977-1978 and 1987-1988. Now that’s about to change – and probably not for the better. This time around similar surveys of consumption based on data collected from the National Health & Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2003 to 2008. The idea here is to actually offer shoppers 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. Yogurt used to be sold in 8 ounce cups – but now most yogurts are 6 ounces or less and FDA has changed that serving size to 6 ounces. The FDA 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? Because 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. And many large muffins that were previously labeled as two or even three servings will be labeled as a single serving under the updated requirements, consistent with how people generally consume them. And 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 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.