Following last month’s announcement that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or agency) had decided to delay the compliance deadline for the menu labeling regulations (see our previous blog post here); today, the agency announced its intent to extend the compliance dates for the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels and Serving Size Final Rules.
As you may recall, in May 2016, the FDA issued Final Rules making the most significant changes to the food labeling regulations since they were initially adopted in 1993. The details of the changes are discussed in our May 27, 2016 blog post found here. Since the Final Rules were published, the agency has been working on providing additional guidance to industry on how to implement the changes (e.g., changes with regard to dietary fibers). However, in March of this year, the food industry sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health And Human Services Secretary, the Honorable Thomas E. Price, MD., expressing concern with the current compliance deadline of July 2018 for manufacturers with more than 10 million dollars in annual food sales (and July 2019 for those with less than 10 million dollars), and requesting it be extended until May 2021, arguing that the current timeframe for implementation did not “sufficiently account for the time, resources, and complexity involved in label changes of this magnitude.”
After several months of speculation as to whether the Agency and its new Commissioner would be delaying the compliance dates for the new Final Rules, FDA announced that after careful consideration, it had determined that “additional time would provide manufacturers covered by the rules 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.”
While the FDA will be issuing a Federal Register Notice outlining the details of the extension “at a later time;” it noted that “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.”
Given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is mandated to issue GMO labeling rules in the near future, it is possible that FDA will delay the changes to the nutritional facts labels to coincide with those rules ( potentially until 2021) in order to avoid having industry update their labels twice. However, we will need to wait until that future Federal Register Notice to see what the agency decides to do.