The endless debate over the Nutrition Facts label took an unexpected turn on March 1 when the Food and Drug Administration announced new guidance on a few of the redesigned labels’ finer points. The FDA weighed in on added sugars, fiber, and honest serving sizes.
While the Center for Science in the Public Interest has issues with some particulars in the latest guidance, the consumer watchdog group expressed support for the move.
“With today’s release of the guidance, a July 2019 compliance date for all companies for the updated Nutrition Facts label is both realistic and achievable,” SPI Special Projects Director Jim O’Hara said in a statement after the FDA announcement. “More than 15,000 of the upgraded labels are already on grocery store shelves. Consumers deserve updated labels sooner rather than later.”
A Sugar by Any Other Name
To start, the FDA announced a clarification on its stance regarding honey, maple syrup, and certain cranberry products. The agency’s earlier definition of “added sugars” on labels included honey and maple syrup, which could have misled consumers into thinking some single-ingredient products might consist of additional sweeteners.
“We also heard from cranberry juice manufacturers that their products need to be sweetened for palatability because cranberries have less natural sugar than other fruits,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained in a statement. “Our draft guidance addresses these concerns by stating our intent to allow manufacturers to use a symbol immediately after the added sugars’ daily value, directing consumers to language that provides truthful and not misleading contextual information about ‘added sugars’ and what it means for each of these specific products.”
What is Fiber?
For all its recent popularity, few foods are as misunderstood as everyday fiber. Even though the human body can’t digest insoluble fiber, it still plays a critical role in human digestion. Think of it as a plant-based snowplow, clearing the side streets of the colon.
Even the FDA struggles with fiber, as evidenced by the agency’s latest guidance on dietary fiber, which essentially states that they’re still trying to decide if certain synthetic non-digestible carbs should be included in the definition. In short, the FDA issued a call for research to clear up the issue. At least a dozen petitions covering nine different would-be fibers await regulatory approval.
Two Years and Counting
Finally, the FDA guidance seeks to tweak serving sizes to bring them more in line with how consumers eat.
This update is just the latest development since the FDA rolled out the new Nutrition Facts label back in May 2016. The original order set a July 26, 2018, compliance date, but the FDA then proposed a staggered delay last September. The latest proposal would give manufacturers $10 million or more in annual revenue until Jan. 1, 2020, to adopt the new labels while manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual revenue could wait until Jan. 1, 2021.
Overall, this latest round of guidance changes little and leaves a firm compliance date unanswered. Compliance is stressful enough without changing rules and ambiguous deadlines. Don’t get caught unprepared – maintain accurate nutrition information with Supplier Management, and streamline your nutrition labeling process with TraceGains Datalink for Genesis R&D.