Absolute Amounts for Micronutrients

GUIDING PRINCIPLE 10. Absolute amounts should be included in the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts boxes for all nutrients.

When FDA issued regulations to implement NLEA, it continued a long-standing policy of not including the absolute amount of micronutrients per serving within the Nutrition Facts box. Food products could, however, include the absolute amounts of micronutrients elsewhere in the food label. The regulations require that micronutrients be declared within the Nutrition Facts box as a % DV. FDA chose this approach for several reasons. First, previous research demonstrated that % DVs better enabled consumers to understand the relative amount of a micronutrient in a food than did the absolute amount (FDA, 1993a; NIN, 1999). Second, the Nutrition Facts box was designed to be easy to read, and adding the absolute amounts of micronutrients would make the label more complex (FDA, 1993a). Third, the 1973 nutrition labeling did not provide absolute amounts because FDA determined that many consumers did not understand the metric system, and there was no formally voiced dissatisfaction with this approach (FDA, 1993a). The new labeling rules in Canada also state that proposed nutrition labels will not include absolute amounts of micronutrients, although absolute amounts will be allowed for the macronutrients in the core group (Canada, 2003). The committee considered a number of potential benefits and drawbacks for including absolute amounts in nutrition labeling.

Benefits to Adding Absolute Amounts to the Nutrition Facts Box

Adding absolute amounts for micronutrients to the Nutrition Facts box could provide several benefits. First, public health advice is often given in absolute amounts and not as a % DV. For example, advice on calcium intake by health educators and health professionals, national health associations, and government consumer information is given in milligrams. As a result, consumers are not able to easily determine the amount of calcium in a food by reading the Nutrition Facts box since it is listed as % DV. By adding absolute amounts, consumers would know the amount of calcium in a food product, yet still be able to use the % DV for quick comparison with other products.

Second, including absolute amounts would assist consumers who want nutrient information yet are unable to understand the % DVs

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