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Volume 9, Number 11 - November 2008


About Food Consulting Company

"Thank you, you are awesome!!!"

– Claudia Vasquez
La Madeleine de Corps, Inc.

Greetings!  This month marks the beginning of our sixteenth year of serving the food industry with food labeling help and our ninth year of publication and free distribution of Food Label News. The newsletter reports on issues that affect food labeling and each month a reader question is answered. See archive. See services.

Q.  I would like to know how many new labeling regulations will be in effect on the January 1, 2010, uniform compliance date.
K.T., Established Food Company, California


A.  FDA established January 1, 2010, as the uniform compliance date for food labeling regulations that are issued between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2008. Read more.

Submit a question for Reader Q&A (no charge).

GAO Report: No Assurance Food Labels Comply

On October 9, 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report saying that FDAs oversight and enforcement efforts for food labels have not kept pace with the growing number of food firms; consequently FDA cannot assure that companies comply with food labeling regulations for preventing false or misleading labeling.

The report titled "FDA Needs to Better Leverage Resources, Improve Oversight, and Effectively Use Available Data to Help Consumers Select Healthy Foods" satisfies a request from a House of Representatives committee on appropriations.

GAO examined:

  • FDAs efforts to ensure that foods comply with labeling rules

  • the challenges FDA faces in these efforts

  • views of key stakeholders on FDA actions needed to mitigate misleading labeling

The report presents shortcomings in FDAs procedures to assure food labels are in compliance with regulations. FDA attributes shortcomings to limited resources and authorities. The Agency agrees with some GAO recommendations, provides comment only on some, and leaves others unaddressed.

Read GAO report.

Commentary:  Food Label News has often reported that consumer and health advocacy groups police labels; the groups petition FDA to increase enforcement activity and impose additional regulation when non-compliant or questionable label practices are discovered. Food Consulting Company believes that food labelers own the responsibility of labeling their company's foods so that they are in compliance with regulations.

GAO Report: Stakeholder Suggestions for Food Labels

The GAO food labels report includes six suggestions from stakeholders that can help consumers make healthier food choices. FDA had already addressed or begun work on each suggestion and this has been reported in Food Label News. The suggestions and links to the latest related Food Label News articles are:

  • implement uniform front-of-package symbol to help select healthier foods, article

  • eliminate qualified health claims, article

  • establish criteria for characterizing the amount of whole grains in food, article

  • prohibit "trans fat free" labeling on foods that contain substantial amounts of saturated fat, article

  • require labels of foods commonly consumed in one sitting to show calories, etc. per package, article

  • clarify the definition of natural as it applies to food, article

Commentary:  Before label changes are required, FDA would follow steps for regulatory change beginning with proposed rule, comment period, and final rule -- or publish additional industry guidance.

GAO Report: FDA on Stakeholder Suggestions

In the GAO report, FDA comments on two of the six stakeholder suggestions. Food Label News reported on both issues earlier this year and the FDA comments serve as an update to those reports.

Regarding implementation of a uniform front-of-package symbol to help consumers select healthier foods, FDAs Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition is currently conducting a series of studies on consumer reactions and decision making when front-of-package symbols are used. (Page 69, GAO report.)

Regarding elimination of qualified health claims, FDA comments that court decisions hold that the First Amendment precludes FDA from outright prohibition of the use of these claims. GAO acknowledged this position. (Page 71, GAO report.)

At Your Service:  Food Consulting Company publishes this free monthly newsletter. Read the newsletter to stay informed on regulations affecting your food labels. Use links in each newsletter to access expert help from Food Consulting Company when you need it. Invite colleagues to subscribe.

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