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Nutrient labeling could see major overhaul

By Lorraine Heller , 09-Nov-2007

Nutrition facts labels on food and beverage products in the US could be set for a revamp, with the nation's regulator announcing this week that it is considering revising reference values and mandatory nutrients.

In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it is considering the changes in order to bring recommendations up to date with new information on diet and health.


Components that could be affected include calories, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, protein and sodium.



The agency, which has not updated its percent daily value (DV) levels since 1995, is now reevaluating these in light of the latest national dietary guidelines, published in 2005, and the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) 2003 review of nutrients using the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) process.



It is calling for comments on certain suggestions, and requests scientific backing for all responses received.



DVs: how to set them and who they target



FDA is seeking comments on how daily values should be set, what they should be based on and which consumer populations they should target.



Questions posed by the agency include whether the DV should be set based on estimated average requirements (EAR) for nutrients, or on Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA).



Currently, DVs are designed for consumers over the age of four. FDA is asking whether this should continue to be the case, or if separate DVs should be developed for different lifestage groups, for example, infants, toddlers and pregnant women.



Consumer understanding



FDA is also calling for information on how consumers use DVs, and if there is any related information that may promote a clearer understanding.



In addition, it asks how helpful the DV indicator is for consumers when making purchases, and what may promote or discourage the purchase of certain products.



Labeling of nutrients



Questions posed by the FDA include:



Calories


• Should 2,000 calories continue to be used for the reference energy intake


• Should 2,500 calories be kept as a label footnote


• Will providing for a percent DV disclosure for total calories promote consumer understanding of food's caloric value



Calories from fat


• What information exists on how consumers use 'calories from fat' listings


• How do these affect consumer focus on a food's total calorie content


• What are the advantages and disadvantages of eliminating this listing



Calories from saturated fat


• Should these continue to be voluntary or should they be made mandatory on labels



Saturated fat


• Should the current Daily Reference Value (DRV) of 20g/d from saturated fat remain


• Should research data be used to establish a DRV for saturated fat that is as low as possible



Trans fat


• Should research data be used to establish a DRV for trans fat that is as low as possible


• Should saturated fat and trans fat be listed on separate lines of the Nutrition Facts label, but have one numerical value for the percent daily value for these two nutrients together



Polyunsaturated fat


• Should it continue to be voluntary or should it be made mandatory to label this


• How should a DRV be developed



Monounsaturated fat


• should it continue to be voluntary or should it be made mandatory to label this



Cholesterol


• Should the current DRV of 300mg/d remain


• How should a DRV be established



Carbohydrate


• Should the current approach for calculating grams of total carbohydrate by difference continue to be used


• Would the separation of dietary fiber from the `total carbohydrate' declaration in nutrition labeling affect consumer understanding of label information and its application to dietary guidelines


• Should additional types of carbohydrate (e.g., starch) be listed separately in the Nutrition Facts label


• Should 'sugars' continue to be included in the Nutrition Facts label


• Should carbohydrates be classified and declared in nutrition labeling based on their chemical definition or on their physiological effect



Dietary Fiber


• Should the IOM dietary fiber and/or functional fiber definitions replace the current FDA definition for dietary fiber


• Should total fiber be used on the label to represent dietary fiber until further analytical methods are developed


• Should soluble and insoluble fiber be made mandatory on the label



Sodium


• Should the DRV be based on 2,300mg/d


• If so, should it be adjusted using the same approach as the other DRIs



For further information, see the Federal Register notice Food Labeling: Revision of Reference Values and Mandatory Nutrients.

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