First it was scheduled for late 2011, then we were told it would be early 2012, and now it's going to be 2013. But at some point in the near future, the FDA will publish a proposed rule to reform the Nutrition Facts Panel.
So what would make it better?
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) executive director Michael Jacobson told FoodNavigator-USA that he would like to see a “greater emphasis on total calories and removal of the ‘calories from fat’, section".
He would also like to see "replacement of the ‘sugars’ line with ‘added sugars (along with setting a daily value and showing the % DV) plus a ban on partially hydrogenated oils and removal of the ‘trans fat’ line”.
CSPI wants the removal ‘calories from fat’ and replacement of ‘sugars’ with ‘added sugars
He added: “We also would like the panel to use the word ‘High’ to indicate when a food is high in saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, or added sugars...and the word ‘low’ when a food is low in dietary fiber.”
Beyond the Nutrition Facts panel, the CSPI would also like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to focus on “improving the readability and usefulness of ingredient labels and to move forward with front-of-package labeling”, he said.
Meanwhile, the FDA “should mount a vigorous effort to stop deceptive labeling [through the use of terms such as] 'natural', 'energy', 'antioxidants', 'heart healthy', '0g trans fat', and others."
FDA should revoke GRAS status of pHVOs
Finally, the CSPI will continue to press the FDA to revoke the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which create trans fats, he said.
“The FDA agrees that trans fat is causing thousands of deaths, but has not yet restricted the use of partially hydrogenated oils, the source of industrial trans fat.
“CSPI petitioned the FDA 2004 to revoke the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated oil.”
In the past, he noted, the FDA has revoked the GRAS status of other substances including saccharin, cinnamyl anthranilate and cyclamate.
Keep it simple: Less is more, says General Mills
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA on this issue last year, Karlis Nollendorfs, senior customer insights manager at General Mills, said: “I’d like to see whole grains added as I think consumers find it hard to work out if they are getting enough.
“However, the panel is already pretty comprehensive, so if anything this could be an opportunity to simplify it.”
Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, Seattle, said he would also like to see something “simpler, more direct”, adding: “I’d also like calorie information to be clearer. This bag of chips contains xx calories.”
Asked what we could do without, Marion Nestle, professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said:”Clutter. Percent calories from fat. Small serving sizes that make everything look healthier.”
The FDA has not discussed the scope of the proposed rule on the Nutrition Facts panel, but is expected to look at serving sizes, daily values, adjustments to label formats and additional nutrient declarations.
A spokesman told FoodNavigator-USA: "The agency expects to issue the proposal in 2013."