Many of us are closely following with anticipation how the final rules for the FDA Nutrition Facts Panels will shape up. Speaking of final rules, FDA recently posted its annual regulatory agenda in which the agency provided insights on the status of various regulatory initiatives. As expected, the agenda affirms the agency’s commitment to completing rules related to food labeling. Without delays, FDA announced March 2016 as the date for final ruling. With the implementation of the ruling, over 700,000 food and beverage nutrition facts labels will need to meet new compliance standards.While many have debated the true economic impact — with FDA estimating nearly $2.3 billion cost to the industry — there is no doubt that for many companies the process will be complex and time-consuming. In addition to relabeling, new package designs and packaging costs, there are additional considerations, such as new recordkeeping processes and very likely reformulations, for many companies. From greater label clarity for consumers to dire chronic health conditions in the American population, FDA has cited numerous reasons for the labeling changes.
A Spoonful of Sugar
Industry, interest groups and consumers have a lot to say about the proposals, with over 280,000 public comments submitted to the FDAfor comment. Clearly one of the more controversial aspects of what FDA proposes is a small but very important new insertion in the label — the inclusion of “Added Sugars” just below the line for total sugar. Will this provide greater transparency for consumers or cause even more confusion? Will buyers be able to make smarter food choices? Or ignore the label altogether? In one small study, nearly a quarter of consumers surveyed could not understand how much total sugar was in a food label by looking at the proposed new FDA label, with some believing the added sugars needed to be added to total sugars.
Breaking It Down
Many companies are developing plans and timelines in anticipation of the ruling. Others may have questions related to the label overhaul, such as updated RDIs for vitamins and minerals, serving size changes, changes to the definition of fiber, labeling unit changes and more. Over the last year, Mérieux NutriSciences has issued a number of educational webinars to help industry address some of those questions. Over the next several months, we’ll continue to provide education and helpful guidance on the proposed rules.
NutriScience Café Webinar Education Series
As part of our commitment to supporting industry, Mérieux NutriSciences has launched NutriScience Café, an educational platform offering condensed, On-Demand, free webinars covering hot topics. We are pleased to share our latest webinar titled “FDA Nutrition Facts Label Updates and Hot Topics in Vitamins” with host John Szpylka, Ph.D., who shares latest updates on the timelines, and covers aspects of the label with particular attention to vitamins.