Why Does Milk’s Nutrition Label Look Different?

If you’re in the habit of reading the nutrition facts label, you may have noticed that the label on many of your favorite foods looks a little different. That’s because, for the first time in over two decades, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring major changes to the way virtually all packaged foods, including milk, are labeled – but rest assured, what’s inside is staying exactly the same. 

What’s Changing on the Label and Why?

The purpose of the revised nutrition label is to help people make informed choices for themselves and their families by making the label easier to understand. It now better reflects advances in nutrition research and the way people actually eat and drink today. Food companies with $10 million or more in annual sales must implement these changes by January 2020 (with many brands rolling out updated labels in advance), while those with less than $10 million in annual sales will have until 2021.

The first, and perhaps most noticeable change is the way the label looks. Calories and serving sizes are more prominently displayed, added sugar has been added as its own line and vitamin D and potassium — both identified as nutrients of public health concern in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans because many Americans, including kids, are not consuming enough — have replaced vitamin A and vitamin C as required listed nutrients along with iron and calcium.

The daily recommended amounts of many nutrients also have been updated to reflect current research around nutrient needs. Since these recommended amounts are used to calculate the percent daily values (%DV) of a nutrient that a food provides (a percent that appears alongside many nutrients on the food label), it may appear as though some foods are providing more or less of certain nutrients than they did before – but when it comes to dairy milk, that isn’t the case.

Has Dairy Milk’s Nutrition Changed?

While the way dairy milk is labeled is changing, dairy milk itself is not. It still provides the same amount of the same essential nutrients as it did before.

Each serving is considered an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, riboflavin and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and a good source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin A and niacin. It also provides 8% of the potassium daily value, and is an important way to up your intake of this important nutrient. In fact, milk is the top food source of potassium in The American diet. Some of these nutrients (protein, potassium, calcium and vitamin D) appear on the standard food label, and others only appear on the expanded version.

Will Dairy Milk’s Nutrition Label Include Added Sugar?

For the first time, the FDA will require added sugar as its own entry on the food label, and has set the daily recommended sugar value at 50 grams (or less). White milk contains lactose, a naturally-occurring sugar, it does not contain any added sugar unlike many non-dairy options. Its food label will list added sugar as 0 grams and 0% DV.

Flavored milk, like chocolate milk, contains some added sugar in addition to its naturally-occurring lactose, so you will start to see that information reflected on the label. While it’s important to consider the amount of added sugar a food or beverage contains in the context of your overall daily sugar intake, it’s also important to consider the company sugar keeps. Flavored milk is a nutrient-rich beverage, with the same essential nutrients as white milk, and leading health and nutrition organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, acknowledge that a small amount of added sugar can help kids enjoy otherwise nutrient-rich foods, like flavored milk and whole grains, while being an acceptable tradeoff for the nutrients provided.

The Dairy Milk You Know and Love

Real milk continues to be the same wholesome, nutritious food that provides essential nutrients in the American diet, with the same great taste you know and love, and the updated food label is yet another tool you can use to make informed choices for yourself and your family.