FDA to delay rule requiring new nutrition facts panel

J. David Ake  AP

J. David Ake AP

After sustained lobbying from the packaged food and beverage industry, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday an indefinite delay in the launch of Nutrition Fact labels that were meant to help Americans eat more healthfully.

"After careful consideration, the FDA determined that additional time would provide manufacturers covered by the rule with necessary guidance from FDA, and would help them be able to complete and print updated nutrition facts panels for their products before they are expected to be in compliance".

General Mills, in multiple comments submitted to the FDA in 2014 and 2015 before the final labeling rule, voiced strong opposition to the requirement that companies call out how many grams of added sugars are included in each product's total sugar.

The labels, championed by former first lady Michelle Obama, were supposed to add a special line for "added sugars" and emphasize calorie content in large, bold text.

Deborah Kotz, an FDA spokeswoman, said in an email that details will be provided when the extension is officially announced.

"Numerous stakeholders have informed us that they have significant concerns about their ability to update all their labels by the compliance date due to issues regarding (among other things) the need for upgrades to labeling software, getting nutrition information from suppliers, the number of products that would need new labels and a limited time for the reformulation of products", the FDA explained. The tweaks include: highlighting calorie content, per serving as well as per package; noting the amount of added sugars; and adding the amounts of vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium instead of just showing percentages of daily recommended values. The agency ultimately disagreed.

Jeff Sessions speaks about Russia before US Senate panel
Asked to explain his decision, the attorney general said he believed he had to recuse himself under Department of Justice rules. Sessions wouldn't talk about whether Trump had been complaining, but suggested he's not intending to go anywhere for now.

"But the fast-approaching compliance deadline was virtually impossible to meet without the needed final guidance documents from FDA", Pamela G. Bailey, GMA's president and CEO, said in a statement. Mondelez has rolled out the new, boldfaced label on its Wheat Thins boxes while PepsiCo did so on its Fritos, Cheetos and Lay's snacks.

In April, the food industry made its case to the FDA that these labels should be pushed back even further - to May 2021.

Despite the extended deadline, CPSI notes that some companies have recognized that consumers want the new information and are already putting updated labels on products.

"As a result, the FDA intends to extend the compliance dates to provide the additional time for implementation". It's the Trump administration's latest delay of the Obama administration's rules meant to improve food labeling and make foods healthier and safer.

The FDA also recently delayed a rule that would require restaurants, grocery, and convenience store chains to post calorie counts for food.

The deadline had been late July 2018.

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