Coalition for Accurate Product Labels seeks risk-based labeling and ingredient disclosure requirements

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Goran13
© Getty Images / Goran13
Over 60 organizations including the GMA, the Independent Bakers Association, the National Potato Council, and the Natural Products Association have joined together to ask Congress to amend the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act.

The Coalition for Accurate Product Labels​, which represents farmers, manufacturers, small businesses and retailers, is asking Congress to pass the Accurate Labels Act, which would establish a federal standard for labeling and ingredient disclosure requirements that is risk-based and substantiated by sound science.

The move comes in response to various state initiatives that would require warning labels or ingredient listings that go beyond national standards, and which the coalition states are not supported by the best available science.

These include proposals in New York, San Francisco, and Baltimore for warning labels on all sweetened beverages even though the FDA says sugar “can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern…”, said the coalition.

Prop 65

The organization is also taking aim at California’s Prop 65, known officially as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. This is a state law that mandates warnings on foods, dietary supplements, and other consumer products about exposures to almost 900 substances, even at very low levels, when these are "known to the State of California" as carcinogens or reproductive toxins. As a result, warnings can be seen not only on product labels but also posted throughout California in restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, stores, and other locations.

“When it comes to making choices about the products they buy, American families need access to clear and accurate information no matter where they live or shop,”​ said Pamela Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

“As consumers are increasingly interested in more product information, digital access through initiatives such as SmartLabel​ are an important part of being able to provide accurate product information and ingredients to consumers,” ​added Bailey.

“More than four in five (83%) of Americans support using digital disclosure through smart phones or web sites as a transparent way to access accurate, detailed information on the products they use. Currently, nearly 26,000 food, beverage, personal care and household products are disclosing more information than could ever fit on a package label through SmartLabel.”

Grassroots effort​ 

The Coalition for Accurate Product Labels stated that in 2017 and 2018, there were 30 proposals in 11 different states that would require warning labels or ingredient listings that go beyond national standards.

The Natural Products Association​, which represents approximately 1,000 members spanning the retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements and health/beauty aids, is activating its grassroots operation through saveoursupplements.org.  

“Consumers have a right to know what is in the products they use each and every day, especially when it comes to making decisions about taking products to support their health.  However, unfounded warning label programs like those in California only make product labels more confusing for consumers,”​ said Dr Daniel Fabricant, NPA’s President and CEO.  

“Congress must act to protect consumers and put an end to expensive lawsuits and unnecessary new regulatory burdens that are difficult for small businesses to manage.”

Dr Fabricant explained that two Accurate Labels Act bills have been introduced in Congress: One by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) as S.3019​ and one by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) as H.R.6022​. The bills have bi-partisan support, he added, and with Prop 65 levels set to change at the end of the summer​, there is an impetus for this Act to move forward rapidly. 

Amendments

Amendments to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act will seek to:

- Establish science-based criteria for all additional state and local labeling requirements. States that meet the criteria can enact their own ingredient listing or labeling programs.

- Allow state-mandated product information to be provided through smartphone-enabled “smart labels” and on websites, where consumers can find up-to-date, relevant ingredients and warnings. 

- Ensure that covered product information is risk-based. “Warning labels act as important precautionary notices of legitimate risks and need to be taken seriously,”​ according to the coalition.

To view a full list of the Coalition’s members, please click HERE​.

Consumer Food Label © Getty Images Ridofranz
© Getty Images / Ridofranz

Not everyone is in favor of the the group's mission, however. Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, emerita, at New York University, told us: "It sounds like this group wants to prevent warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages but their proposal would also apply to eco- and other labels based on fair trade, animal welfare, agricultural sustainability, and other food values that lots of people care deeply about.  Of course science matters, but values matter too. Their proposal comes across as unfriendly to consumers."

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