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FDA proposes consumer research into Nutrition Facts format

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 22-Nov-2010

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it intends to assess consumer reactions to potential changes to Nutrition Facts panels and has requested comments on a proposed study.

The agency first proposed the research, “Experimental Study of Nutrition Facts Label Format”, a year ago, and has now submitted its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

The FDA said the purpose of the study is to help the agency understand how consumers would interpret proposed modifications to the Nutrition Facts label format, which could include using a larger font for total calorie information, adding a ‘percentage of daily calories’ declaration or eliminating the ‘calories from fat’ declaration. The ‘serving size’ or ‘servings per container’ declaration could also see increased font size.

“The study is part of the Agency's continuing effort to enable consumers to make informed dietary choices and construct healthful diets,” the FDA said in a Federal Register notice published last week.

The study would be conducted online by a third party research organization, and would ask 10,000 participants to assess Nutrition Facts labels that vary in format, type of food product and nutritional quality of the product.

The aim would be to assess judgments about foods’ healthfulness as well as participants’ ability to use the Nutrition Facts panel to accurately calculate calories and appropriate serving sizes.

The FDA has issued three advance notices of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) in response to the recommendations of its Obesity Working Group (OWG), developed through consumer research, two in 2005 and one in 2007.

The ANPRMs intend to answer whether and how to emphasize calorie counts on Nutrition Facts panels; whether and how to amend the agency’s serving size regulations; and the third asks whether certain nutrients should be added or removed from the Nutrition Facts label.

“The study results will be used to help the Agency to understand whether modifications to the Nutrition Facts label format could help consumers make informed food choices,” the FDA said.

Comments on the information collection are open until December 17, 2010. The Federal Register notice, including details of how to submit comments, is available online here .

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