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New labeling compliance timetable

By Sarah Hills , 09-Dec-2008

Food and beverage companies will have until 2012 to make any labeling regulation changes that are introduced over the next two years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced.

FDA periodically announces uniform compliance dates for new food labeling requirements to minimize the economic impact of label changes.

For food labeling regulations issued in the last two years - between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2008 - the FDA Department of Health and Human Services set January 1, 2010, as the uniform compliance.

Now, looking ahead, companies have until January 2, 2012, to comply with food labeling regulations that are issued between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010.

And one area that is likely to see a change in the near future is food allergen labeling.

In August the FDA said it found that the use of advisory label statements was not uniform in the US, particularly when it comes to the risk of cross-contamination during food production.

Now it is working on a long-term strategy to assist manufacturers in using allergen advisory labeling that is “truthful and not misleading, conveys a clear and uniform message, and adequately informs food-allergic consumers and their caregivers”.

Much of the recent interest and concern about labeling centers on health issues, according to a report from Datamonotor, called “The Future of Food Labeling: Winning Trust and Maximizing In-Store Appeal”.

It said that consumers are hungry for health information, especially those with specific health or dietary goals, and they will be more open to, and influenced by information about how to eat and drink in a way that will promote weight loss or prevent weight gain.

It highlighted research conducted by IFIC in 2008 which found that 67 percent of US consumers agree they are interested in reading or hearing about information on the relationship between food and health.

It said: “Health concerns are gaining momentum and increasing in scope. Today, consumers know more about nutrition than ever before, and they are using that information to choose foods and beverages that meet their health goals.

Respondents who told Datamonitor they had taken active steps to eat more healthily in 2008 significantly outnumbered those who stated they had done less.

It added: “This explains why many of the fastest growing food and beverage products categories and product/brands are typically heavily aligned with the health mega-trend.”

Consumer confidence

The report, compiled from Datamonitor’s consumer survey data and academic, governmental and industry sources, found that Country Of Origin Labels (COOL) are also popular with consumers while organic and ethical labels are better regulated and enjoy greater consumer confidence.

However, consumers have mixed feelings about ‘unregulated’ food label terms.

And packaging/labeling has become a fundamental facilitator of health information, and strongly influences food and beverage purchase decisions.

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