On August 1, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closed its comment period for a proposed rule that would make significant changes to food labeling requirements, particularly nutrition facts panels. Per the Administrative Procedure Act, the FDA is currently reviewing the 264,723 comments that it received regarding the proposed rule and changes to nutrition facts panels that appear on all FDA-regulated food products. The proposed rule can be found here. As soon as the rule is finalized, it will be implemented in sixty (60) days’ time. For existing products, manufacturers will have two (2) years to comply with the new rules, meaning that while new labels for existing products will need to be printed, industry will have two (2) years to comply with the new rules, once implemented.
The major changes from the old rule to the new rule are outlined here. The new rule changes the iconic “nutrition facts” panel design to emphasize parts of the label that reflect current public health concerns like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The new “nutrition facts” panel on labels would look like this, with the text displaying the calorie count enlarged, the percentage of daily value moved to the left side, and changing the footnote to better explain the percent daily value of certain essential nutrients.
The new rule also makes changes that reflect a better understanding of food and nutrition science. When the nutrition facts panels on labels were first introduced more then 20 years ago, the amount and quality of information regarding diet and foods were not as expansive as they are today. For example, the FDA’s new food labeling rule and updated nutrition facts panel would eliminate the “calories from fat” from the label since research has resoundingly shown that the type of fat is more important than the amount alone.
In addition, according to the FDA, the FDA’s new food labeling rule would better reflect the eating habits of the American public. The Agency notes that the rule, if implemented, will require packaged foods that are typically consumed in one sitting to have their serving size labeled as one serving, instead of more than one serving. According to the FDA, the change in serving size will help more accurately reflect consumer behavior. For an example of this new serving size rule, the FDA has published an info-graphic that illustrates this shift in consumers’ eating habits, addressing the need for changes in serving sizes.
The new rules apply to packaged foods. However, like other FDA labeling rules, the new nutrition labeling regulations will do not extend to foods served at restaurants. Food manufacturers will have two (2) years after the rule’s effective date to come into compliance with all of the new regulations. According to the FDA, the rule has a one time initial cost to the industry of $2.3 billion, but the rule is expected to bring $21 to $31 billion in cumulative benefits to consumers over the next 20 years.
As with all FDA regulations, it is important to maintain compliance with these rules to avoid adverse Agency action or other delays in the manufacturing and distribution chain. Failure to comply with FDA regulations can result in warning letters, delays in importation, injunctions, or other adverse action, which ultimately can prevent your company from doing business in the United States. Accordingly, remaining knowledgeable about new regulations and implementing measures to ensure compliance are important when dealing with FDA-regulated products.
If you have any questions about the changes to the nutrition facts panels, FDA labeling regulations or compliance with other FDA regulations, please contact us at email@example.com