PMA Calls for Year Delay on Nutrition Labeling

Newark, Del. -- The Produce Marketing Association has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to delay by one year its nutrition value changes for the voluntary produce nutrition labeling program, to provide the industry more time to conduct its own research.

The reason for the request: FDA indicated it had received new nutrition values from the USDA, some of which showed significantly reduced nutrition values for several commodities. In comments filed June 3 with FDA, PMA said that the 60-day comment period the agency provided was insufficient time for the industry to conduct its own studies on nutrition values.

Fresh produce is subject to a voluntary nutrition labeling program administered by FDA that requires retailers to provide nutrition information on the 20 most frequently consumed fruits and 20 most frequently consumed vegetables. The program remains voluntary as long as 60 percent of retailers have labeling for 90 percent of those top items. FDA checks for compliance through biennial surveys.

In its comments, PMA said it is concerned about some of the changes in nutrition values for key commodities. "PMA pioneered produce nutrition research back in the 1980s, and we know that it can take a year to do this kind of research properly given the variety of production regions, including imports, as well as consideration of storage items," said the association's government relations v.p., Kathy Means. "We saw surprising differences between the nutrition values the industry has been using and the ones proposed, including significant drops in fiber, Vitamin A, and potassium values. These may well be the correct values, but marketers of the commodities affected by this need time to do their own studies to confirm or contest the new numbers."

The trade group explained that research for many commodities requires sampling product from different regions at different times of the year to get accurate values.

PMA's plea for an extension is being seconded by commodity groups, such as The U.S. Potato Board, the U.S. Apple Association, TexaSweet Citrus Marketing, Inc., the California Strawberry Commission, and the California Avocado Commission.

Means said PMA's main concern is that the changes "are large enough to affect the descriptors that can be used for some of these commodities, such as 'excellent source of' or 'good source of.' That, in turn, can affect other messages such as health claims that can be made. We want to afford those commodity marketers who want to do research the time they need to do so."

The 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits are: apples, avocados (California), banana, cantaloupes, grapefruit, grapes, honeydew melons, kiwifruit, lemons, limes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, strawberries, sweet cherries, tangerines, and watermelons. The 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables are: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, green (snap) beans, green cabbage, green onions, iceberg lettuce, leaf lettuce, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, radishes, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

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