Claims delaying implementation would adversely affect consumer health

Morbid

In early October, the FDA released a proposed rule that, in part, would allow food and beverage companies to hold off on updating their Nutrition Facts labels. Large food companies can put off updating their labels until 2020; smaller food companies can wait until 2021.

However, consumer health advocates argue this extension would have immediate and grave health effects. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, obesity is a searing public health problem. Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that more than 20 percent of the total population of every state in the country is self-reporting obesity. In half of those states, the figure is 30 percent or higher. Another study suggests that the estimated annual medical costs of obesity are $147 billion in 2008 dollars.

This public health problem, argues Center for Science in the Public Interest President Dr. Peter G. Lurie, will only be exacerbated by a recent decision by the Food and Drug Administration.

New Direction

The new label rules mandated by the FDA in May 2016 require companies to disclose “added sugars” – ingredients allegedly related to higher risks of weight gain, heart disease and other problems – as a separate category, in grams and as a percent of a daily recommended consumption. Serving sizes are to be determined in a more realistic fashion – the serving size of ice cream, for instance, will be two-thirds of a cup instead of half a cup – and calorie values will receive more label real estate.

Once armed with more accurate and meaningful information, Dr. Lurie implies, consumers will make better-informed and healthier choices in the marketplace. 

The Takeaway

Opinions are highly divided on whether this additional delay is beneficial. While some major brands have chosen to move forward with the new guidelines, many other companies feel they need more time to implement the label changes, which require significant time and effort to calculate. Consumers, industry members and any other interested parties may submit electronic or written comments on the proposed rule by Nov. 1, 2017.