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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NY Times article F.D.A. to Clarify Standards for the Front of Food Labels

The NY Times today published an article regarding the supposed confusion experienced by food manufacturers regarding claims they can and cannot put on the food labels.

"The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it would seek to clear up the confusion caused by a surge of upbeat nutritional claims — for everything from Froot Loops to mayonnaise — that manufacturers have begun to make on packaged food labels.
The FDA is very clear about what is acceptable and what is not with very clear intent not to deceive the public. The regulation states that if a label claims that a product is
Sugar Free: (food that contains less than 0.5 g of sugars.)  and if the food is NOT also low or reduced in calorie that fact must be disclose. You can read more about specific words that can and cannot be used here.

A similar regulation has to do with the term: "light". It can only be used if the consumer would generally recognize it as a food that is improved in its nutrient value compared to other average products of its type.

The same is true for the following terms on a food label:
"reduced", "less", "fewer", and "light" : the label must state each of the following (these are called "accompanying information"):
1. The percentage or fraction by which the food has been modified,
2. The reference food, and
3. The amount of nutrient (that is the subject of the claim) that is in the labeled food and in the reference food

And finally just in case anyone still had any doubts the disclosure statement is supposed to clear any misunderstanding:
"... is a statement that calls the consumer's attention to one or more nutrients in the food that may increase the risk of a disease or health-related condition that is diet related. The disclosure statement is required when a nutrient in a food exceeds certain prescribed levels."

I have to wonder what manufacturers are thinking when they engage in such practices. Didn't they ever hear the famous quote: "you can deceive some of the people some of the time, but you cannot deceive all of the people all of the time..."

The NY Times reports that:

"By early next year, officials said, the agency will issue proposed standards that companies must follow in creating nutrition labels that go on the front of food packaging.
That could force manufacturers to deliver the bad news with the good, putting an end to a common practice in which manufacturers boast on package fronts about some components, such as vitamins or fiber, while ignoring less appealing ingredients, like added sugar or unhealthy fats."

The manufacturers (and their marketing people) should know that people are paying attention, and just because they figured out a loop hole in the current regulation, does not mean we are "buying" it.

Check out the tweets on this site regarding this issue.

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