If you follow the North American food regulatory trends, then I am sure you have noticed the torrent of new U.S. food regulations from recent years slowed to a trickle this year. While the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is ongoing, the Trump Administration’s order to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation seems to have hindered the agencies responsible for issuing new regulations.   

In recent years, the North American food industry has been inundated with significant regulations ranging from the FSMA regulations to the overhaul of the nutrition labeling regulations of the U.S. and Canada. Last week, the FDA unveiled a dedicated web page to remind the industry about the compliance dates for all core FSMA regulations. After seven years of FSMA, it seems the food industry is turning its focus toward meeting the requirements of the FDA nutrition labeling rules finalized in May 2016.

Last month, the FDA proposed to postpone enforcement of the new Nutrition Facts rules from July 26, 2018 to January 1, 2020 for food and supplement manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales. In related labeling news, the agency announced this week that it intends to revoke the authorized health claim for soy protein and the reduced risk of heart disease.

As food and supplement companies prepare to comply with the new nutrition labeling rules, several issues must be considered, including the labeling of added sugars, dietary fiber and changes to the declaration of certain vitamins and minerals. For the first time, manufacturers can also voluntarily declare an often overlooked but essential nutrient.

Have You Had Your Choline Today?

Believe it or not, research has shown that 90% of American adults fail to meet the Institute of Medicine dietary recommendation for choline (2016). Choline is recognized as an important nutrient for a variety of health benefits ranging from cognitive wellness to eye health to liver function. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified choline as an essential but “underconsumed” nutrient.

In recent years, choline has emerged as a new food trend and a hot research topic within the scientific literature and industry conferences. In fact, a technical session at the recent Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Chicago addressed the public health significance of choline and the importance of educating consumers about this nutrient.

The fortification of food products with choline has been recommended as a strategy for increasing the consumption of this valuable nutrient. In recent years, several food and beverage products have incorporated choline salts, such as choline chloride and choline bitartrate for fortification purposes.

Under the revised Nutrition Facts rule, the FDA set a reference daily intake (RDI) for choline of 550 mg per day, which is the Adequate Intake (AI) level for choline established by the Institute of Medicine. According to the 2013-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the average daily choline intake from food and beverages averaged 256 mg for children (ages 2-19), 402 mg for men and 278 mg for women.

Choline is naturally present in various foods, particularly animal products such as eggs, fish, meat and poultry, but it is also available to consumers as a dietary supplement. While humans can produce choline within our livers, clinical research has indicated the amount produced is insufficient to meet our dietary needs.

To Label or Not To Label?

While a 2013 Gallup survey revealed only 15% of the American population recognized choline as an essential nutrient, consumer awareness is increasing. As choline begins to appear on food labels, I would expect food manufacturers will see an increased consumer demand for this nutrient.  Since nutrition experts have suggested that nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods, it seems that increased demand for choline could result in greater fortification of foods with this essential nutrient.

Manufacturers wanting to voluntarily declare choline levels on their labels can use Mérieux NutriSciences’ nutritional testing services to determine the amount of the nutrient in their product. We offer LC-MS/MS testing to determine the choline content of certain foods, dietary supplements and animal food products, including pet food. Mérieux NutriSciences offers regulatory compliance services for food labeling as well as comprehensive nutrition labeling services to assist food manufacturers in creating compliant labels. Contact us today to start your labeling project!


Meet the Author

Patrick Kennedy
Information Services Manager, Mérieux NutriSciences

Patrick Kennedy is the Information Services Manager for Mérieux NutriSciences. He has over 15 years of food industry experience and has written extensively covering a wide range of food safety and regulatory subjects. He holds a MS degree in information science from the University of Illinois, and is a member of several industry organizations including AOAC, IFT and IAFP.

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