- The food industry is attempting to delay the implementation deadline for the Food and Drug Administration's new Nutrition Facts panel requirements using the appropriations process, sources told Politico.
- The industry could pursue one of two different riders to block the FDA's enforcement of the new rules: The agency would have to wait until three years after it issued final guidance on dietary fibers and added sugar, or until the U.S. Department of Agriculture implements its impending GMO disclosure rules.
- This news comes not long the Food & Beverage Issue Alliance sent an Oct. 21 letter that requested the Obama administration align the compliance deadlines for the Nutrition Facts panel with USDA's GMO labeling rules.
According to the industry, the major reason for the request is to prevent the need for multiple label changes. Those label changes can be costly in terms of both time and money, and across the national supply chain, changes can be complex. Manufacturers say they would prefer to know the changes needed for the USDA's GMO labeling rules to make those label disclosure changes at the same time as having to print new Nutrition Facts panels.
However, the request could extend this implementation period significantly, by a time frame of years rather than months. USDA is expected to publish GMO disclosure rules by July 2018, and experts anticipate those rules to include a long implementation period. Per one version of the proposed riders, the Nutrition Facts panel changes wouldn't be implemented until the GMO labeling rules are in place.
Public health activists, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, are concerned about delaying the Nutrition Facts panel changes. The Obama administration, which has proven to be food-centric and health-conscious under the leadership of the First Lady, may not have approved such a long deadline extension.
But the Trump administration hasn't yet shown a comparable interest in food industry regulations related to health and wellness. If they don't push for changes like the current administration has, the Nutrition Facts panel could continue to be postponed indefinitely, or at least until the next administration that takes up the cause — especially if the deadline aligns with the USDA's GMO disclosure rules.
The other key question here is whether this is even possible. The FDA issued final guidance and implementation deadlines for the Nutrition Facts panel changes months ago, so it could be too late to make such a request. But the federal government is no stranger to regulation deadline extensions.