Industry Supports FDA’s Nutrition Facts Label Delay
U.S. food and beverage makers welcomed the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to extend the compliance date for label changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel until Jan. 1, 2020, from July 2018.
“We are taking this action because, after careful consideration, we have tentatively determined that additional time would help ensure that all manufacturers covered by the final rules have guidance from FDA to address, for example, certain technical questions we received after publication of the final rules, and that they are able to complete and print updated Nutrition Facts labels for their products before they are expected to be in compliance with the final rules,” the agency noted in a document scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Oct. 2 and available online (also see attached).
“Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed choices and these updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel are an important part of that ongoing commitment,” noted Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association. “FDA’s new compliance date will provide companies with the necessary time to execute these updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel in a manner that will reduce consumer confusion and costs in the marketplace.”
The “commonsense” extension, will, according to Bailey “allow FDA to complete the necessary final guidance documents for added sugars and dietary fibers and [give] companies adequate time to make the Nutrition Facts Panel revisions. We urge FDA to complete this guidance as quickly as it can so companies can make the required updates.”
“This additional time will help AFFI’s members, especially our small and medium-sized companies, make these changes and also lessen the financial burden of doing so,” said Alison Bodor, president and CEO of McLean, Va.-American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), adding, “AFFI encourages FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to collaborate to align the compliance dates for the NFP and the Biotech Labeling regulation so that companies can be most efficient with their resources and only relabel packages once.”
Not everyone was pleased by the extension, however. Characterizing FDA’s action as a “decision to cave in to food industry demands,” Dr. Peter G. Lurie, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), asserted that the deadline delay “harms the public’s health, denies consumers vital information, and creates an unfair and confusing marketplace as many companies have gone go ahead with the labels anyway.”
Lurie further pointed out that the agency “has further delayed compliance for small companies from July 2019 to January 2021, and they account for a whopping 90 percent of the industry."
Particularly concerning to the advocacy group, he added was the release of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing ever-rising obesity levels across the nation, making the need for updated labels disclosing added sugars in grams and as a percent of a day’s recommended maximum intake, as well as prominently displaying calories and using more realistic serving sizes, all the more pressing.
Among the approximately 8,000 products with updated labels that are already in stores, according to Chicago-based Label Insight, which tracks food labeling, are the entire Triscuits cracker line, Wheat Thins Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Snacks, Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists, Green Giant Beet Noodles, and Marie Callender’s Dutch Apple Loaf. Meanwhile, suppliers such as Campbell, Hershey, Panera, and Mars have publicly pledged to meet the earlier July 2018 compliance date.