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FDA delaying overhaul of nutrition labels

FDA delaying overhaul of nutrition labels
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The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it is delaying an Obama-era rule to require manufacturers to update nutritional facts labels on processed foods. 

The Food and Drug Administration said it has determined that manufactures need additional time beyond the July 26, 2018 compliance date to complete and print new labels for their products.

“The framework for the extension will be guided by the desire to give industry more time and decrease costs, balanced with the importance of minimizing the transition period during which consumers will see both the old and the new versions of the label in the marketplace,” the agency said in an update on its website. 

“The FDA will provide details of the extension through a Federal Register Notice at a later time.”

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The rule, finalized in May 2016, requires manufactures to follow a new design for the nutritional facts labels, one that highlights a product’s calories.

The changes include new serving sizes that more closely reflect the amount of food people actually eat, require the amount of “added sugars” to be listed in grams as a percent daily value and updates the nutrients manufacturers must list.

Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label, along with calcium, and iron but vitamins A and C will no longer be required. Manufacturers can include them voluntarily.

The rule also requires labels to include dual columns that list both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain products consumed in one or multiple sittings, such as a pint of ice cream or 3-ounce bag of chips.

Industry groups welcomed the delay, calling it a common-sense decision to reduce consumer confusion and cost.  

“Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed choices, such as by updating the Nutrition Facts Panel,” Pamela Bailey, the president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in a statement.

“But the fast-approaching compliance deadline was virtually impossible to meet without the needed final guidance documents from FDA. FDA’s extension is both reasonable and practical.”

Consumer advocates, however, criticized the agency for its decision.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the delay will only add to consumer and industry confusion since manufacturers have already started adopting the new labels. 

“The Trump administration would do well to remember that FDA’s mission is to protect the public health of the American people not the bottom line of industry,” he said.