What Is the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act?

Meghan Perry

The Nutritional Labeling and Education Act, or NLEA, is a federal bill that was passed in 1990. It amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) to require that nearly all foods sold to consumers provide nutritional information on their packaging. One of the purposes of the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act was to inform consumers about the nutritional value of food and assist them in making healthier food choices. The NLEA also made labeling regulations more uniform, so that consumers could more easily understand the labels on the food they purchase.

Thanks to NLEA, all foods have to include nutritional information and a list of ingredients on the label in the U.S.
Thanks to NLEA, all foods have to include nutritional information and a list of ingredients on the label in the U.S.

The NLEA established guidelines about the information that food manufacturers are required to include on labels. Information about servings is one of the requirements. Most of the nutritional information is based on the serving size. In addition, providing the number of servings per container is also required. This way, the consumer knows not just the nutritional information of one serving but could, from that information, figure out the nutritional information for an entire package of food.

Information required on any food label includes the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Information required on any food label includes the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.

Other information required on the label includes the number of calories per serving as well as the total amount of fat and saturated fat. The amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber in the food also needs to be included on the label. In addition, cholesterol, sugars, and sodium information must be included. The Nutritional Labeling and Education Act also requires that information about minerals and vitamins be provided for the consumer.

Nutrition labels typically aren't available on fresh produce, making it harder to determine their benefits.
Nutrition labels typically aren't available on fresh produce, making it harder to determine their benefits.

It's only useful for consumers to know the nutritional information about the food they're eating if they can put it into context. For this reason, part of the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act also requires that labels provide a daily value as a general guideline. This may be based on an average for the population, such as a 2,000-calorie diet, for example. By providing this information, the consumer will know, by looking at the label, not only how much dietary fiber is in a serving of food but also how much of the daily recommended intake that serving provides.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services is the person responsible for ensuring that the regulations of the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act are followed. He or she can also exempt certain foods from the labeling requirement or require that additional nutrients be placed on the label. Another part of this law is to educate the public about the changes to the labels and how to properly read them so that the consumer can be informed and make healthier food choices.

Nutritional education includes helping people understand the health benefits that fruits and vegetables provide.
Nutritional education includes helping people understand the health benefits that fruits and vegetables provide.

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