Will changes to the Nutrition Facts panel lead to a wave of ‘defortification’?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture credit: istockphoto-i_frontier
Picture credit: istockphoto-i_frontier

Related tags Nutrition

Updated daily values (DVs) for vitamins and minerals that will roll out with the new-look Nutrition Facts panel, coupled with changes to serving sizes, may reduce the nutrient density of fortified foods, and could lead to reduced overall intakes of some vitamins, predict the authors of a new study penned by nutrition experts at vitamins supplier DSM Nutritional Products.

In the paper – Implications of US Nutrition Facts Label Changes on Micronutrient Density of Fortified Foods and Supplements​ – published in The Journal of Nutrition​, the authors warn that the new DVs “may lead to a reduction in nutrient density of fortified foods and dietary supplements with respect to eight vitamins and six minerals,” ​while it is “probable” ​that intakes of vitamin A and the B vitamins might decrease when the new labels are rolled out.

Under the new labeling regulations​ (coming into force in July 2018), daily values (DVs) for some nutrients, notably vitamin D, C and K, potassium, calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, have been increased (which means formulators will have to add more of them if they want to make the same ‘good/excellent source of’ nutrient content claims​). So that will likely lead to higher​ intakes of these nutrients.

However, the DVs of many others - notably B vitamins - have been reduced, in some cases by up to 90%.

A 60% lower DV for vitamin B12, for example, means that, if you currently meet the requirements to make a ‘good source of’ vitamin B12 claim on a food product, you could use less than half the vitamin B12 in the same product in future, still make the same ‘good source of’ claim, and​ save money. And consumers would likely be none the wiser that they are getting less B12.

‘Manufacturers may opt to reduce the amount of nutrients added… ie. defortify’

So in other words, some manufacturers may opt to ‘de-fortify’ products so they can still make nutrient content claims, but use less of the active ingredient, predicts co-author Michael McBurney, PhD, FSCN, adjunct professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, and VP science, communications and advocacy at DSM Nutritional Products.

“For the 14 nutrients with a reduced RDI, products will show a greater percent DV, even though nutrient content per RACC (i.e., nutrient density) remains static. In fact, manufacturers may opt to reduce the amount of nutrients added post–July 2018 ​[when the new Nutrition Facts panel is scheduled to come into force] i.e., defortify, to maintain percent DV values closer to the pre–July 2018 percent DV.”

Similarly, where some serving sizes (RACCs) are increased (who routinely eats half a muffin?), the amount of vitamin/mineral required per serving to make a nutrient content claim could be significantly reduced, says the paper: “By increasing the RACC from 55 to 110 g for the category of ‘bagels, toaster pastries, and muffins, excluding English muffins,’ the amount of vitamin and mineral required per serving, or calories, to make a nutrient content claim, is effectively halved.

“Substantial differences in nutrient density… affect micronutrient intake. A breakfast cereal with a 60g RACC that is fortified to provide 10% DV of 8 vitamins and minerals is less nutrient dense (i.e., contains fewer vitamins and minerals per kilocalorie or per gram) than a breakfast cereal with a 30g RACC containing 10% DV for 8 vitamins and minerals.”


  • New requirements​ – added sugars, vitamin D, potassium, a new look format
  • No longer mandatory, now voluntary​ – vitamin A, vitamin C
  • No longer allowed​ – calories from fat, other carbohydrates
  • New definition​ – dietary fiber, new servings sizes​ (RACCs)
  • Updated DV –​ total fat, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, potassium and most vitamins and minerals
  • New units of measurement​  – vitamin A in mcg RAE, vitamin D in ug, vitamin E in mg, niacin in mg NE, folate in mcg DFE

Get more info HERE​.

‘We’re entering an era in which the need to monitor dietary intake patterns and nutritional status is unprecedented’

But does this all matter?

Much depends on what manufacturers do, but it will be important to monitor how the changes impact nutrient intakes and nutritional status over time, Dr McBurney told FoodNavigator-USA.

 “As the amount of nutrients needed per serving for nutrient content claims decreases, the prevalence of the population below the EAR ​[Estimated Average Requirement] or AI ​[Adequate Intake] can be predicted to increase if they continue to eat the same foods. In totality, the United States is entering an era in which the need to monitor dietary intake patterns and nutritional status is unprecedented.”

Source: The Journal of Nutrition​ published online ahead of print as doi: 10.3945/jn.117.247585

'Implications of US Nutrition Facts Label Changes on Micronutrient Density of Fortified Foods and Supplements.'

Authors​: Michael I McBurney, Sonia Hartunian-Sowa, and Nathan V Matusheski

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At last---DVs based on more-or-less current data

Posted by David Stone,

"the DVs of many others - notably B vitamins - have been reduced, in some cases by up to 90%"

Presumably in the latter example you're referring to biotin, whose DV has been absurdly high since the introduction of the DV all those years ago. The use of the antiquated USRDA [even then, based as it was on high values from the 1968 RDA table and on then-current guesses for nutrients w/out RDA values, such as biotin] for the DVs is the issue as FDA failed to stick to its guns and use its updated values. Now, nearly THREE DECADES after passage of the NLEA, we get a set of DVs based upon more-current scientific data rather than upon the industry preference for decades-old data. Bravo FDA. It's about time.

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Posted by CWolf,

There seems to be a notion that a "healthy diet" (insert adjectives of your choice) is fully nourishing.




Yet the USDA says that nutrient levels in food (before cooking) are decreasing significantly.

Davis, D. R., M. D. Epp, and H. D. Riordan. 2004. Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 23(6):669–682.

Jack, A. 1998. Nutrition under siege. One Peaceful World Journal, Spring:1, 7–8.


Or the CDC NHANES says nutrient deficiencies are common.

Agarwal, Sanjiv, et al. "Comparison of Prevalence of Inadequate Nutrient Intake Based on Body Weight Status of Adults in the United States: An Analysis of NHANES 2001–2008.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition ahead-of-print (2014): 1-9.

A recent test by the AF found 25% of young women and 9% of young men were iron anemic (all had passed a physical).

Lifestyle choices can skew that even further. Nutrient losses in sweat for example can be significant (Kleges, Lappe, McClung, etc.).

Therefore, the only way to assess health is to test. Guessing is a poor option.

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