Food Labeling Client Alert: FDA Proposes Changes to Iconic Nutrition Facts Label

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed an update to the iconic Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. In light of new scientific evidence about human health and nutrition, dietary recommendations of recent consensus reports, and public comments received in response to advance notices of proposed rulemaking, the agency is proposing to revise its regulations to provide updated nutrition information on food labels and improve the presentation of that information to consumers.

The proposed Nutrition Facts label changes will, if approved, affect all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and alcoholic beverage product labels, which are under the authority of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the Department of the Treasury. In addition to the proposed changes released last week, the FDA is also proposing to make corresponding updates to the Supplement Facts label on dietary supplement products.

These are the first changes to the Nutrition Facts label in more than a decade. Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) in 1990, which amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to give the FDA explicit authority to require nutrition labeling on most food packages and specified the nutrients to be listed in the nutrition label. FDA then issued the first regulations relating to the Nutrition Facts in 1993. For the past 20 years, consumers have relied on nutrition labeling to help make healthier food choices.

The FDA’s Federal Register notice regarding the proposed changes reports that the agency has not updated the Nutrition Facts label since the 2003 trans fat rulemaking or established new or updated daily values (DVs) for nutrients since 1995. Since that time, the public health amongst the U.S. population has changed. For instance, there has been an increase in obesity among both children and adults, new information has become available about certain nutrients, and new dietary recommendations have been published.

The agency has proposed to update the Nutrition Facts label by adjusting serving sizes, considering what nutrients should be included on the label, and redesigning the appearance of the label to highlight key information. According to an FDA press release, the proposed changes to the label would:

  • Require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that intake of added sugar is too high in the U.S. population and should be reduced. The FDA proposes to include “added sugars” on the label to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product.
  • Update serving size requirements to reflect the amounts people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the serving sizes were first put in place in 1994. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what people “should” be eating. Present calorie and nutrition information for the whole package of certain food products that could be consumed in one sitting.
  • Present “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings.
  • Require the declaration of potassium and vitamin D, nutrients that some in the U.S. population are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health. Potassium is beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label, though manufacturers could declare them voluntarily.
  • Revise the Daily Values for a variety of nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. Daily Values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value on the label, which helps consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
  • While continuing to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” on the label, “Calories from Fat” would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and Percent Daily Value, which are important in addressing current public health problems like obesity and heart disease.

FDA’s proposed rules will be open for public comment for a period of 90 days. The agency expects to publish the final rule by 2015 and provide the food industry with two years to achieve compliance with the new rules.

Stakeholders may submit comments, identified by Docket No. FDA-2012-N-1210, and/or Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 0910-AF22, by going to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov or by submitting written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5360 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

Topics:  Department of Agriculture, FDA, Food Labeling, Nutrition Facts Labels

Published In: Agriculture Updates, Communications & Media Updates, Health Updates, Products Liability Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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