FDA Puts Brakes on Food Label Changes

The Food and Drug Administration will delay the implementation of Obama-era nutrition label changes for two years, a move welcomed by multiple trade groups but not without its critics.

A plan to make some major changes to the way that food labels display nutrition information, in the works since 2014, is on hold—for now.

The Food and Drug Administration, reflecting changes in the executive branch, has pushed back compliance dates for the updated version of the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels to 2020 for manufacturers with more than $10 million in annual food sales and 2021 for manufacturers that make less than that.

The nutrition label delay, the agency says, came about as a result of concerns raised by trade groups and companies. It also comes months after the FDA similarly delayed a rule requiring calorie counts on menus at restaurants.

Despite the delay, the FDA promises that the rules are still coming.

“The FDA is committed to making sure that consumers have the facts they need to make informed decisions about their diet and the foods they feed their families,” the agency emphasized in a news release. “The proposed rule only addresses the compliance dates. The FDA is not proposing any other changes to the Nutrition Facts Label and Serving Size final rules.”

The move was welcomed by food industry groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which called it a “common-sense extension.”

“Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed choices, and these updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel are an important part of that ongoing commitment,” GMA President and CEO Pamela G. Bailey said in a news release. “FDA’s new compliance date will provide companies with the necessary time to execute these updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel in a manner that will reduce consumer confusion and costs in the marketplace.”

The American Bakers Association, meanwhile, said the delay “recognizes the practical consequences of a complete changeover of our food labels.”

One group that spoke out strongly against both the current move and others made during the Trump administration was the Center for Science in the Public Interest, whose legislative affairs director, Laura MacCleery, said that regulatory rollbacks came with far deeper costs than advertised.

“Under Trump, the FDA and USDA have systematically undermined popular measures that provide useful calorie and nutrition information to consumers and healthy food to children,” MacCleery stated Monday. “The cost of these programs is vastly outweighed by the billions in health benefits they will provide to the economy by avoiding disease and increasing productivity.”

While the nutrition label delay is a setback for the health group, the group also notched a recent victory on the restaurant menu-labeling issue. CSPI and another group, the National Consumers League, came to a deal with the FDA, with the agency stating it will implement the menu-labeling rules, with no further delays, in May. A federal judge approved the agreement, which came as the result of legal action on the part of the advocacy groups, last week.

Samples, from left, of the current and updated FDA label styles. (Handout image)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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