Photo credit: RL Food Testing Laboratory, Inc.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an update last week on its Nutritional Facts label changes, with Commissioner Scott Gottlieb noting that the agency would embark on an educational campaign for consumers when the changes go into effect in 2020 and 2021. The earlier compliance date is for large manufacturers with annual sales of more than $10 million; the later one is for those with annual sales below that amount.
In addition, Gottlieb announced final guidance for industry about which non-digestible carbohydrates can be added to food and be considered fiber on the new label. He said FDA's new definition will permit naturally occurring fruit, vegetable and whole-grain fiber, as well as isolated non-digestible carbohydrate ingredients — such as cellulose, guar gum and pectin — or synthetic non-digestible fibers considered to have physiological benefits.
FDA also released draft guidance to help industry declare added sugars on labels for honey, maple syrup and some cranberry products. The agency intends to allow such manufacturers to include a symbol after the added sugars daily value on the new labels that will direct consumers to further information and context. FDA is also updating serving size requirements for the new label to more closely align with what consumers really eat and drink, and the agency issued final guidance on that aspect as well.
In a response to FDA's March 1 update announcement, Jim O'Hara, special projects director for Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that the guidance on dietary fibers, added sugars and serving sizes "should cause the agency to re-think its proposed delay of the upgraded Nutritional Facts label."
FDA had initially suggested a deadline of July 26, 2018, for implementing the new label, but last June announced it had decided to delay that until 2020 and 2021 because some manufacturers and trade associations were concerned about doing it before the mandatory GMO ingredient labeling was required.
Now that further FDA guidance is available, O'Hara said that a July 2019 compliance date for small and large companies seemed realistic and achievable.
Gottlieb didn't address the compliance deadline issue last week except to say that a final rule would be issued this spring. He also said that FDA would be detailing a nutrition strategy in the coming weeks to "reduce preventable death and disease through better nutrition."
Many food and beverage makers — including Hershey, Campbell and Mondelez — anticipated the changes and are using the new Nutritional Facts labels on their products. Food and beverage companies that want to get ahead of these latest regulations will likely start implementing as much of the new guidance as possible since the cost will only go up the longer it takes.
The updated Nutritional Facts label makes a number of changes such as recalculating serving sizes, more clearly displaying calories per serving, and including information on added sugars and dietary fiber. Also being added are amounts of vitamin D and potassium per serving. The Nutritional Facts label hasn't been updated in about 20 years.