What is a serving size for candy?
When it comes to nutrition labeling, a common misconception is that the serving size is a recommended amount of product to consume in one sitting. Actually, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act mandates that serving sizes be based on how much of that product Americans actually consume on average on any given occasion.
Serving sizes are based on “reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs)”, which FDA develops from data on how much Americans are eating. The current reference amount for most chocolate and candy is 30 grams, which is about 1 oz. Some candy products are less than this, for example, hard candy is 15 grams and after-dinner confectionery which is 10 grams.
Serving sizes can get a bit tricky. Although they are based on the RACC amounts, they are not necessarily always the same. For example, single serving containers are defined as products that contain up to twice the size of the RACC, so for most candy products this is anything up to 60 grams. Additionally, the serving is often set by the number of pieces of candy (or a household measure) that is closest to the RACC.
Finally, FDA has set new requirements mandating that certain products containing 200-300% of the RACC carry dual column labeling, with the nutrition information labeled both “per serving” and “per package”.
I’ve noticed the servings/nutrition information on some of my favorite candy products have changed, why?
In 2016, FDA announced changes to the nutrition facts panel and serving size requirements on the labels. A great overview of these changes can be found on FDA’s website. Changes include emphasizing the calories in the product, changes to the nutrients listed on the label, including the addition of “added sugars” and updates to “reference amounts customarily consumed”, upon which serving sizes are based.
Candy was one of the few categories that actually had a decreased “RACC”, resulting in a lower serving size. Because people are eating slightly less candy per sitting on average now than they did 20 years ago, the serving size for candy products dropped from 40 grams to 30 grams. This has resulted in candy manufacturers needing to update the label information to reflect these new requirements.
Why do some candy products seem to have the old nutrition label format, while others have a new format?
Changing labels is a complicated process, that often requires testing, label re-design, careful review, and in some cases reformulation. Furthermore, many candy companies buy packaging several years in advance – particularly for seasonal or specialty products. Additionally, because of the large number of changes to the label, there are still some outstanding questions that we are awaiting response from the FDA about.
Candy companies are working diligently to update the labels before the deadline, which is why many products bear the new format. However, while companies use up their labeling store and await responses from FDA on outstanding questions, some products will still carry the old labeling format.
What are added sugars?
In 2016, FDA announced that added sugars would be required on the Nutrition Facts panel to help increase consumer awareness about the quantity of added sugars in foods. Added sugars are sugars that are added to the food during processing. For example, ingredients like table sugar and agave are both considered added sugars. On the label, you will see the amount of added sugars in grams and as a percent Daily Value. More information about added sugars can be found on FDA’s website.
For more information and resources that will help you better understand the unique role that chocolate and candy can play in a happy, balanced lifestyle, please visit Your Candy, Your Questions.