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Labeling seminar outlines anticipated FDA changes

By Lorraine Heller , 23-Jun-2006

Changes to the labeling requirements of calorie content, trans fats and portion sizes are among the issues being considered by the US Food and Drug Administration, according to a recent food labeling seminar.

Organized by the Food Institute and law firm Olsson, Frank and Weeda (OFW), last week's seminar reviewed a number of changes to labeling requirements currently under consideration by the FDA.

 

"During the seminar we looked at the basic mandatory information on labels currently required by the FDA and USDA, together with what we should anticipate coming within the next 6-12 months," said Robert Hahn, principle attorney at OFW.

 

These anticipated changes include a revision of the nutrition facts panel on food labels to emphasize a product's calorie content.

 

Proposals currently under consideration include increasing the font size of the calorie listing on labels, as well as no longer requiring the 'calories from fat' listing, as this could detract from the calorie declaration.

 

According to Hahn, the FDA is also considering allowing a health claim for reduced calorie foods saying that these help reduce the risk of obesity and related diseases.

 

The FDA may also adjust the way serving sizes are labeled, in an effort to increase people's awareness of how much they eat. Proposals for changes include increasing the font size as well as revising reference amounts for serving sizes based on more recent consumption data.

 

However, according to Hahn, this remains a controversial issue as it raises the concern that it could promote higher levels of consumption.

 

Another issue on the FDA's agenda is the clarification of trans fats labeling. This could include setting a daily value percentage for trans fats. This column on product labels has so far remained blank because of a lack of scientific information, said Hahn.

 

"The footnote considered in the past, which states that intake of trans fats should be as low as possible is also still on the table," Hahn told FoodNavigator-USA.com, adding that the FDA is also considering harmonizing the nation's 0g trans fats requirements with those of Canada.

 

Currently US law allows food products with anything up to half a gram of trans fats per serving to carry a '0g trans fat' claim. However, Canada is more stringent with the level of 'undeclared' trans fats permitted, placing these at 0.2g, which means that manufacturers may be faced with more reformulating if they want to continue making a 0g claim.

 

Other issues being considered by the FDA include defining 'gluten free', as well as defining 'low carb' and 'reduced carb' claims, which, according to Hahn is "closing the barn door after the horse is already out."

 

The FDA is also due to issue guidance on the unintentional presence of allergens in food and beverage products, as well as reconsider the regulatory framework for qualified health claims and the permitted levels of lead in candy, said Hahn.

 

For more information on the labeling seminar, click here .

 

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