The compliance date for the new nutrition facts label has been delayed…yet again. The original compliance date was July 26, 2018 for manufacturers with more than $10 million in annual sales, and July 26, 2019 for manufactures with less than $10 million in annual sales. This ruling was announced May 20, 2016 (and filed in federal register on May 26, 2016) which allowed two years for the food industry to make the needed changes.
On October 2, 2017, the FDA issued a proposed rule to extend the compliance date to January 1st, 2020 for manufactures with more than $10 million in annual sales and January 1st, 2021 for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual sales; a delay of 18 months. The FDA has been clear that the proposed rule ONLY effects the compliance date and not the required changes to the nutrition facts label.
Although the dates have been postponed, it’s important to remember that these nutrition facts changes were consumer driven and they are anxious to have them in their hands. The 2016 Label Insight Food Revolution Study reports 75% of consumers do not trust accuracy of current food labels. The new nutrition facts label changes are aimed to change that. The study also reports “brand loyalty” to be declining, but found that brands who can meet consumer demand for product information will create a new dynamic of trust, while eliminating confusion about their product. (1)
In addition, certain professional groups have expressed concern over the delay, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics being one of them. The Academy noted “the final rule provided manufacturers with more than two years to transition to the new format and that the deadline is more than sufficient for companies whose products are already complying.” (2)
The FDA cites the following as reason for the delay: “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 rules have guidance from FDA to address, for example, certain technical questions we received after publication of the final rules…Companies and trade associations with members covered by the rules have informed us that they have significant concerns about their ability to update all their labels by the compliance dates due to issues regarding (among other things) the need for upgrades to labeling software, the need to obtain nutrition information from suppliers, the number of products that would need new labels, and a limited time for reformulation of products.” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. made specific mention of the food industry needing additional guidance on “added sugars.” (3)
The FDA’s proposal to extend compliance dates was done through a cost/benefit evaluation. While they acknowledge flaws to their method, they report the cost to the food industry to be greater than the reduction of benefits to the consumer by extending the final date ruling. They also report intending to exercise enforcement discretion with respect to the July 26, 2018, and July 26, 2019, compliance dates. (3)
As such, we at RL Foods encourage you to be proactive about attending to the needs of your company in making this switch while putting yourself as a front runner in meeting the needs and demands of your customer.