Most everyone remembers the food pyramid from their grade school days (or even later in life), which was the visual cue issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for Americans to use when making decisions regarding their dietary habits and choices. Unfortunately, the food pyramid marketing programs were so successful that most Americans still have not transitioned to the new USDA health program, MyPlate, which replaced the food pyramid program back in 2011. The food industry is partially to blame since many of the food labels making dietary guideline product claims continue to cite old vocabulary from the food pyramid days, for example “servings” of fruits and vegetables instead of “cups” from the new and improved MyPlate plan. Understanding how to apply the MyPlate criteria to produce properly is one clear way to communicate healthy eating choices to our growing population.
In the United States, two different regulatory organizations oversee food labeling for different product types. The first post in our blog series broke down which food products fall under the labeling jurisdiction for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as how the above affects a product’s statement of identity. Now that we’ve established that base, we will delve deeper into the various differences between USDA and FDA food labeling, from the way nutrition claims are handled to safe handling instructions and everything in between. Below are six essential differences between food labeling guidelines for the two regulatory bodies: