Fusion Newsletter Article: What’s Happening with Our Food Labels???

What's Happening with Our Food Labels???

What’s happening with our food labels???If your kitchens produce food items that are sold to the public in your retail locations, you obviously know about the FDA’s food labeling regulations. These can be complex and require strict attention to detail. It’s good to keep up with the latest, so here’s a little recap of where we stand to date.

Back in late February of this year, the first lady of the United States partnered with the FDA to announce a new “proposal” for an updated food label. The label as it exists today has had no major changes since 1993. In the last 20 years, the only change has been the 2006 requirement to declare Trans Fat.

The new label proposal has three main objectives. Below is an excerpt from the FDA website that discusses these objectives1:

Greater Understanding of Nutrition Science

  • Require information about "added sugars." Many experts recommend consuming fewer calories from added sugar because they can decrease the intake of nutrient-rich foods while increasing calorie intake.
  • Update daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D. Daily values are used to calculate the Percent Daily Value listed on the label, which help consumers understand the nutrition information in the context of a total daily diet.
  • Require manufacturers to declare the amount of potassium and Vitamin D on the label, because they are new "nutrients of public health significance." Calcium and iron would continue to be required, and Vitamins A and C could be included on a voluntary basis.
  • While continuing to require "Total Fat," "Saturated Fat," and "Trans Fat" on the label, "Calories from Fat" would be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

Updated Serving Size Requirements and New Labeling Requirements for Certain Package Sizes

  • Change the serving size requirements to reflect how people eat and drink today, which has changed since serving sizes were first established 20 years ago. By law, the label information on serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they "should" be eating.
  • Require that packaged foods, including drinks, that are typically eaten in one sitting be labeled as a single serving and that calorie and nutrient information be declared for the entire package. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda, typically consumed in a single sitting, would be labeled as one serving rather than as more than one serving.
  • For certain packages that are larger and could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers would have to provide "dual column" labels to indicate both "per serving" and "per package" calories and nutrient information. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. This way, people would be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.

Refreshed Design

  • Make calories and serving sizes more prominent to emphasize parts of the label that are important in addressing current public health concerns such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Shift the Percent Daily Value to the left of the label, so it would come first. This is important because the Percent Daily Value tells you how much of certain nutrients you are getting from a particular food in the context of a total daily diet.
  • Change the footnote to more clearly explain the meaning of the Percent Daily Value.

Here is what the “Proposed” new label might look like. Officials are still discussing what the final result should look like.

New vs. old label

The final hot issue with labeling is the decision of whether or not to require the declaration of food items containing GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) on the food label. Even though polls regularly show that more than 90% of Americans want GMO food labeling2, this initiative has appeared on several state ballots around the country but only passed in a few states. To date, only one state, Vermont, has signed an actual bill into law stating that by July 1, 2016, all products sold have the GMO label displayed, if applicable.

In 2012, the measure was rejected in California; in 2013, Washington voted No; and just this year, the measure was rejected by voters in Colorado and Oregon.

Proponents of the initiative feel consumers have a right to know what is in their food. Making this labeling mandatory would allow consumers to make their own decisions about which types of product they may wish to avoid. Voluntary labeling has not been sufficient for informing consumers. This would allow those with religious or ethical reason to make informed decisions. At least 64 countries around the world have established some form of this mandatory labeling.

Opponents of the initiative argue that GMO labeled foods imply a negative health effect, and no verifiable differences have yet been proven. The cost to manufacturers and, ultimately, to the end-consumer, will be significant. The actual printing of the new labels just tips the iceberg. Systems to track ingredients all the way from field to end product and storing them separately will ultimately raise prices to the consumer. Estimates in increases vary from a few dollars to up to $400 a year in the consumer food bill3. Tax payers would be responsible for picking up the tab for the setup of the procedures/labor to monitor and enforce the initiative.

The GMO debate continues.

Just a few ideas to keep an eye on!

References

  1. "U.S. Food and Drug Administration." Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. http://1.usa.gov/1ihlwMA.
  2. "Our Mission." Coalition of States for GMO Labeling. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. http://www.righttoknow-gmo.org/mission.
  3. "Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods." Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09371.html.

Stephen Conner, Vice President - Product ManagementArticle by: Stephen Conner, Vice President - Product Management; Fusion, 1st Quarter, 2015