- Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s nominee for Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said he would consider the idea of extending the deadline for manufacturers to make changes to the Nutrition Facts panel from 2018 to 2021, according to Agri-Pulse.
- Last month, a coalition of food industry groups sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price urging him to consider such an extension. The letter stated they favored making changes to provide consumers with clear information, but had initially asked for five years to comply due to the complexities of the changes that need to be made. Under the current timeline, companies will have to start redesigning their labels again to include GMO disclosures three days after the deadline for the Nutrition Facts label.
- "The current compliance deadline does not sufficiently account for the time, resources, and complexity involved in label changes of this magnitude. While a two-year compliance timeline may have been sufficient for the original nutrition facts panel rules issued in the 1990s, the food and beverage world is much more complicated today," the letter says. It was signed by leadership from 17 industry groups, including the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Ever since the parameters were set for the new Nutrition Facts label deadline, food and beverage manufacturers have been working to get the deadline extended.
Last year, similar attempts were made to the Obama administration with letters and please by the industry, but their requests were denied, as plans continued for the July 2018 mandate. However, President Trump and his administration haven't been reluctant to reverse Obama-era policies, so food companies could be getting their wish.
Industry groups argue their chief concern is preventing the need for multiple label changes, which are both costly and complex. Manufacturers say they would rather 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.
But consumer groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest see this as a question of health disclosure. In a written statement, the group says food manufacturers are trying to keep important — and potentially embarrassing — information about things like sugar content out of the public eye.
“It is mind-boggling that the food industry is fighting transparency and consumer information even though that’s exactly what their customers want,” CSPI President Michael Jacobson said in the statement. “Not only is industry undermining the public’s health—it is undermining its own credibility.”
Gottlieb said he’d be “delighted” to work with Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) on the issue. He stressed that doing things efficiency is important to him, and he would consider the merits of what the food coalition was asking.