Tuesday, June 13, 2017

FDA puts into limbo Obama-era nutrition labels for packaged food

"After sustained lobbying from the packaged food and beverage industry, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday an indefinite delay in the launch of Nutrition Fact labels that were intended to help Americans eat more healthfully," Caitlin Dewey reports for The Washington Post. "The labels, championed by former first lady Michelle Obama, were supposed to add a special line for “added sugars” and emphasize calorie content in large, bold text. They had been scheduled for rollout in July 2018, with a one-year extension for smaller manufacturers."

Dewer notes, "The delay is the latest reversal of the Obama administration’s nutrition reforms under Trump. On April 27, the FDA also delayed rules that would have required calorie counts on restaurant menus. A week later, the Department of Agriculture loosened the minimum requirements for the amount of whole grain in school lunches and delayed future sodium reductions."

Consumer groups said the indefinite delay in the labeling change was "an attack on public health," Dewey reports. "The largest groups in the food industry, meanwhile, is celebrating what it calls a win for /common-sense' regulation. But . . . as in the case of the menu-labeling delay, some companies have already adapted to the new rules — and they may be hurt if their competitors get more time to make the change."

The early adopters include Nabisco/Mondelez, "which has rolled the labels out on its Wheat Thins crackers; PepsiCo, which has put them on Lay’s chips, Fritos and Cheetos; and KIND, which makes granola bars. Meanwhile, Mars Inc. — the maker of Uncle Ben’s rice, as well as dozens of candy brands — has vocally lobbied the FDA to stick to the original July 2018 deadline, citing consumers’ need for more health information."

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