The FDA feels the nutrition label needs to be changed because our nations’ eating is changing. We are consuming more food and experts are seeing an increase in the U.S. population with obesity and other preventable diseases.
The meeting was held at the offices of the USDA and was also available through a live webcast. The meeting began with a panel of FDA staff members explaining their reasoning behind the proposed changes. Followed by a panel of industry experts and stakeholders who presented an ‘outside perspective’ of the proposed changes.
The stakeholder perspectives panel consisted of several experts from the Center of Science in the Public Interest, the American Frozen Foods Institute, Harvard Medical School and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The overall panel seemed to support the changes to the nutrition facts label, but voiced concerns over a number of specific items. While the FDA makes a compelling case for each of the proposed changes, the stakeholder’s panel brought forth some noteworthy feedback and suggestions.
Below are our top discussion points from the stakeholder’s panel that may influence the FDA to rethink some of the proposed changes:
Dual column should NOT be used. One of the proposals from the FDA is to have a dual column label for packages likely to be consumed as one or multiple servings. This would include packages that contain at least 200% up to and including 400% of the RACC serving size (Recommended Amount Customarily Consumed). The FDA argues that most consumers do not want to do the math to figure out calories, so the dual column will total it for them.
Nearly all of the panelists agree that the dual column label is confusing to most consumers. Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., Co-founder and Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, highly recommends that instead of using a dual column label that the standard for a single serving be any product up to 300% of the RACC.
Another concern is the larger size of the dual column label. Some food product’s labels may have to be completely redesigned to fit the dual column format.
Added Sugars deserves room on the label – also include teaspoon. The FDA proposes to include a separate listing of Sugars in the nutrition label to include a mandated declaration of ‘Added Sugars.’ This would point out to consumers how much sugar is naturally occurring versus how much is added. While Donna Garren, Ph.D. from the American Frozen Foods Institute opposed the addition of Added Sugars stating that this is not based on science nor linked to obesity; the other panelist all agree that it should be added to the label.
Frank Hu, MD, Ph.D. from the Harvard Medical School stated that “compelling scientific evidence shows that added sugar intake increases the risk of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.” Disclosing such crucial information gives those that are at risk the opportunity to make healthier choices. If implemented, the proposed changes would include a better understanding of the nutrition science.
Some of the panelists also agreed that the use of teaspoons (tsp) per serving, instead of or in addition to the grams for sugar, would greatly help consumers understand the amount of sugar they are consuming in that product. They argued that many consumers are not as familiar with grams as they are with household measurements such as a teaspoon. Frank Hu, MD, PhD, explains, “using teaspoons makes consumption clearer for consumers.”
The ‘Alternative’ label format would be best. The FDA has an alternative proposed label format which includes breaking the nutrients into categories that would help the consumer make healthier choices. These categories would include “Avoid Too Much” and “Get Enough.” The majority of panelists agreed that this format should be considered more seriously by the FDA.
Pupin Tuma, Esq., The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, explains that the alternative format “provides substantial advantages” in helping people understand what they ought to do to make the healthy choice rather than simply supplying information.
2 years for compliance is not enough. The FDA has proposed that after the final ruling the industry would have 6 months to prepare and 2 years to comply. Some fear that this is not enough time. Donna Garren, Ph.D. warns, “there has been an increase in the amount of products in supermarkets; there is a great volume of products that will need to be changed.” Garren suggests a more comfortable time of 3 to 5 years to change the label and to educate the public.
We at RL Food Testing have also expressed our concern over the 2 year timeline for compliance. The additional mandatory declarations of Potassium and Vitamin D may require additional time for nutritional software analysis companies to update their databases. We saw a similar issue when Trans Fat was added to the label in 2006.
The FDA is aware and recognizes that it may take the industry some time to review and examine products. However they feel that manufacturers will have ample time to make any necessary changes to the labels.
These expert panelists put forth many noteworthy points regarding the proposed changes. With the comment period closed on August 1st, it will be interesting to see if FDA will make note of them during this crucial review period before their final ruling is posted.
RL Food Testing is committed to staying on top of the latest news regarding this important nutrition facts label change. Please check back for important updates.
To view the public meeting: http://fda.yorkcast.com