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FDA extends compliance deadline for Nutrition Facts panel changes

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By Elaine Watson+

13-Jun-2017
Last updated on 16-Jun-2017 at 14:14 GMT2017-06-16T14:14:19Z

FDA extends deadline for Nutrition Facts panel changes

As widely expected, the FDA is to extend the compliance dates for the Nutrition Facts label final rules to give manufacturers more time to prepare, although it has not yet said what the new deadlines are.

In an update on its website published this morning, the agency said:  “In May 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts Label and Serving Size final rules and set the compliance date for July 26, 2018, with an additional year to comply for manufacturers with annual food sales of less than $10 million. After those rules were finalized, industry and consumer groups provided the FDA with feedback regarding the compliance dates. 

“After careful consideration, the FDA determined that additional time would provide manufacturers covered by the rule 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.

“As a result, the FDA intends to extend the compliance dates to provide the additional time for implementation. 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. The FDA will provide details of the extension through a Federal Register Notice at a later time.”

Industry source: The buzz is we're looking at 2021

Asked when the new compliance dates would be published, an FDA spokesperson told FoodNavigator-USA: "All we can say is that any additional detail regarding the extension will be forthcoming when the extension is officially announced in the Federal Register."

Although this was just an estimate, speakers at the American Conference Institute (ACI) food law and regulation forum  in Chicago last month predicted that the deadline would likely be extended to 2021, coinciding with the probable date for compliance with new GMO labeling regulations (assuming firms have up to three years from USDA’s July 2018 – USDA’s deadline for finalizing a national bioengineered food disclosure standard  – to update labels).

One food industry source at the conference told FoodNavigator-USA: “The buzz is that we’re looking at 2021.” 

He added: “The process takes so long that if you’re a large company you have to start planning now; there is also a concern over capacity at printers. But if you think added sugar labeling could negatively impact your sales, you might have some incentive to wait a little bit longer to see if there is a delay before you have to change your labels.”

Dietary fibers, added sugar

There is also a lot of uncertainty over which ingredients will be classified as dietary fibers under the new look panel, and whether the FDA will be persuaded by industry petitions arguing that isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates such as inulin and polydextrose should be considered dietary fibers  for labeling purposes, he said.

Inulin is very widely used in foods so a lot of people are just keeping our fingers crossed that the FDA approves the petition [to get inulin classified as a fiber].

“Of course you can still use inulin in the meantime, but there may be less incentive if you can’t list it as grams of fiber on the Nutrition Facts panel.  It all depends if you can easily replace it with something else [that is classified as a fiber] in your formulation.”

STAKEHOLDER REACTIONS

"The ability of the Trump Administration to repeat its mistakes is breathtaking... As with its delay of menu labeling, the FDA will end up denying consumers critical information they need to make healthy food choices in a timely manner and will throw the food industry into disarray.  The updated Nutrition Facts Label, announced in May 2016, gives consumers calorie information in a bolder format, uses more realistic serving sizes, and most importantly will provide a separate line and Daily Value for added sugars."

Jim O'Hara, Health Promotion Policy Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

"The agency has not yet issued vitally important final guidance on added sugars and dietary fibers that is essential for companies to make label updates... The extension allows the federal agency to complete the necessary final guidance documents and gives companies adequate time to make the Nutrition Facts Panel revisions.

“FDA’s common-sense decision will reduce consumer confusion and costs... Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed choices, such as by updating the Nutrition Facts Panel. But the fast-approaching compliance deadline was virtually impossible to meet without the needed final guidance documents from FDA. FDA’s extension is both reasonable and practical.”

Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO, The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)

"FDA’s decision to delay the food industry’s deadline to update and include the revised Nutrition Facts panel on their products is extremely disappointing... The FDA must make empowering consumers to make accurately informed food choices their first priority. Rather, the FDA is putting industries’ concerns before the public’s health.

"The association strongly urges the FDA to reconsider this extension, or at a minimum, make any delay as short as possible."

American Heart Association

"We anticipate completing our label updates by Spring 2018 despite any delays to the compliance date for the Nutrition Facts Label Final Rules.”   

Justin Mervis, SVP, General Counsel, KIND  

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