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FDA requests comments on Nutrition Facts research

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 30-Nov-2009

Related topics: Food safety and labeling, Regulation

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has requested comments on a study examining consumer reaction to possible modification of Nutrition Facts labeling, it said in a Federal Register notice.

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

Now the FDA is seeking comments on the three ANPRMs and on a proposed experimental study to examine consumer reactions to various approaches to Nutrition Facts labeling.

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 FDA said that calorie count emphasis could entail 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 agency then intends to randomly select 3,600 people to review a Nutrition Facts label from a selection of different formats and judge the food on its nutritional attributes and how healthy it is, and will assess their ability to use the panel to calculate calories and serving size to meet objectives.

“The purpose of the study is to help enhance FDA’s understanding of consumer comprehension and acceptance of modifications to the Nutrition Facts label format,” said the Register entry. “The study is part of the agency’s continuing effort to enable consumers to make informed dietary choices and construct healthful diets.”

The FDA also intends to examine use of the Nutrition Facts label and how this relates to health status.

Comments are due by January 19, 2010, and the notice can be accessed here .