Industry Wins, Consumers Lose, With Weakening of Nutrition Labeling Rules

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have put the brakes on multiple Obama administration regulations intended to help consumers make better nutrition choices.

For starters, the FDA has put an indefinite hold on nutrition-label updates that were scheduled to take effect next summer. In response to industry complaints about the new label (which was to include a line item of “added sugars” and larger calorie counts/portion sizes to better reflect how much people actually eat), the agency relaxed the timeline indefinitely, the Washington Post reported. This adds a degree of confusion and complexity for some food manufacturers that had already started implementing the label updates.

The new label was also to include more-accurate percent daily values and an update to the nutrients of interest. As ConsumerLab.com has pointed out, the daily-value recommendations for some nutrients—last updated in 1968—need to be overhauled to reflect recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine). For nutrient information, the revised label would have removed requirements to include vitamins A and
C, kept requirements for calcium and iron, and added mandates for vitamin D and potassium, as these are more likely to be inadequately consumed.

The change in labeling policy comes on the heels of the USDA’s relaxed grain and sodium standards in school lunches. This move prompted former First Lady Michelle Obama to remark, “Think about why someone is okay with your kids eating crap,” the Washington Post reported.

One rule would have required calorie labels on all menus in restaurants by May 2017; on the day before it was set to take effect, that rule was delayed until May 2018.

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Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and a recent graduate of the UNC School of Medicine. She has made several appearances as a nutrition expert on CW's San Diego 6, been quoted as a fitness expert in the New York Times, and is an ACE master trainer and award-winning author. She is currently pursuing a residency in pediatrics.
Certifications: ACE, ACSM and NSCA

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