The Evolving Labeling Landscape

The Evolving Labeling Landscape

May 3, 2017
Annette Maggi

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

If you follow the political environment, you’re aware that President Trump has indicated that anyone who proposes a new regulation must be prepared to eliminate at least two existing regulations. In general, Republican administrations tend to create fewer regulations than Democratic administrations. This article provides updates on key labeling and nutrition regulations within the current political climate as well as updates on on-package labeling programs.

Menu Labeling: On Thursday, April 27th, the Food and Drug Administration sent paperwork to the White House Office of Budget and Management suggesting the May 5th compliance deadline for this regulation could get delayed, which it officially did with the new compliance date of May 7, 2018. Earlier in April, the National Association of Convenience Stores and the National Grocers Association sent a letter to the FDA, saying that it's impossible for their members to comply with the rule and that the FDA dramatically underestimated compliance costs, especially for non-restaurant retailers. It’s unknown if this plays into FDA’s action, especially as most retailers and restaurants have already done the majority of work and spent dollars to comply with the regulation. Because menu labeling is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is also question what will happen to the regulation if the ACA is repealed and/or replaced.

Revision of the Nutrition Facts Panel: While Scott Gottlieb has not yet been confirmed as the new FDA Commissioner, in his confirmation hearings, he indicated that he is open to pushing back the compliance date for the updated Nutrition Facts Panel.  Gottlieb’s reasons include the fact that the FDA has not yet finalized guidance on fibers and added sugars, and the timing of USDA’s regulation on biotechnology labeling could cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars if the two rules are implemented separately. In April, executives from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and a variety of trade organizations sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price requesting that the compliance date be pushed back to 2021. A delay has not formally been announced, but this is an area of watch.

Smartlabel™: As consumers’ interest in greater transparency about the food they purchase in your stores increases, Smartlabel™ is trying to provide a solution. With nutrition, ingredient listing, claims and a description of ingredient functions, Smartlabel™ gives consumers access to information by scanning a product or searching a website. Tracking to be a one-stop shop for information on all packaged foods, the program is expected to ramp up to more than 30,000 products by the end of the year.  While food manufacturers appear to be committed to the program as a way to provide consumers with greater product transparency, some are waiting until they implement the revisions to the Nutrition Facts Panel before entering all products into the system.