FDA Label Updates – What You Need to Know
Over the last few years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated a multitude of food regulations by creating the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In addition to the regulations outlined in the FSMA, the FDA made other changes specifically surrounding labeling of consumer products. Nutritional labels received a makeover, and a new Bioengineered label is now required for all GMO products.
Updated Nutritional Panels
By 2021, all food companies will be required to update their nutritional labels on all products to the new FDA labeling requirements. These new regulations were first introduced in 2016 to give companies enough time to obtain the necessary information from their vendors and change over their labels.
The reasoning for the changes was to reflect new scientific information about health, especially the link between diet and chronic diseases. The FDA believes these changes will better allow consumers to understand what is in their food, and make better choices about what to purchase.
One big change to the label includes the size of the fonts for the serving size as well as the calories. These were increased to have better visibility on a common label. Serving size standards were updated to minimum sizes based on the normal amount of that food a person would eat at any given meal.
Vitamins A & C were removed and replaced by Vitamin D and Potassium. Each label must now list the total sugars, as well as the amount of added sugars. Added sugars are defined as those added during the processing or packaging phase, and include syrups, honeys, and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.
The FDA has mandated that all products containing Bioengineered Ingredients (formerly known as GMOs) include a symbol on their packaging informing consumers of the contents. This is in contrast to the previous way the food industry handled GMOs. In the past, products obtained a symbol that proved they were Non-GMO. Now a symbol is required if products contain GMOs, and nothing is required if they are free from them. The government defines Bioengineering as “food that contains genetic materials that has been modified through in-vitro recombinant DNA techniques; and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”
AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA) will keep a list of Bioengineered Foods to identify all the foods that are available in bioengineered form. The list will be updated as new foods are created or added. The current list includes: alfalfa, apple (ArcticTM varieties), canola, corn, cotton, eggplant, potato, salmon, soybean, squash, and sugar beets.
Labels are required for any items that can be defined as a food intended for human consumption. Exemptions for labeling include restaurants, food carts, cafeterias, taverns, ready to eat food items at the grocery store, or extremely small food establishments. Other exemptions include BE products that are used as processing aids during manufacture, or a final product that contains up to five percent (5%) of unintentionally added GMO ingredients. The USDA concludes that food produced through Bioengineering meets all relevant federal health, safety, and environmental standards.