Despite its original deadline of July 26, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the compliance date for the updated Nutritional Facts label. Under this new proposal, manufacturers with less than $10 million or more in yearly food sales would have until January 1, 2020 to comply, while manufacturers with under $10 million in yearly food sales would have until January 1, 2021 (foodandbusinessnews). According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who spoke on September 12, 2017 at the Politico Policy Summit, the agency was not ready to implement” the Nutrition Facts revisions “on schedule” (lexology). Whether or not expectations remain optimistic, some manufacturers agree they will need the extra time to create new labels while keeping the new labeling rules of genetically modified ingredients in mind.
As stated in a constituent announcement, “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 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” (fooddive). However, the new deadline is arguably a contradiction to the FDA’s remarks since this new deadline leaves open the possibility for label changes.
Many people in the food and beverage industry are happy. For example, Pamela Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, reported “F.D.A.’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. This common-sense extension to January 1, 2020 will allow [the] F.D.A. to complete the necessary final guidance documents for added sugars and dietary fibers and gives companies adequate time to make the Nutrition Facts Panel revisions” (foodbusinessnews). In accordance with Bailey, Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association stated “This additional time will help suppliers and bakers provide consumers with needed nutrition information to make healthy, informed decisions about their diets. We also hope this additional time will enable harmonized label changes for both [the] F.D.A.’s Nutritional Facts label rule and U.S.D.A’s bioengineered food disclosure. One label change would be beneficial for consumers and industry alike” (foodandbusinessnews). To be clear, the label alteration thus far includes not just one change but a series of changes. It includes recalculating serving sizes, displaying calories per serving more conspicuously, and showing information on added sugars and dietary fiber. Quantities of Vitamin D and potassium per serving will be made evident as well. This is the first amendment to the label in approximately 20 years.
On the contrary, other people in the industry are frustrated and skeptical of the proposed deadline. President Dr. Peter Lurie of The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group which is against any delay, called the deadline “hollow.” He is most stunned that manufacturers with less than $10 million in yearly sales (which is 90% of the food industry) have until January 1, 2021 to come into compliance (fooddive). He also believes that the delayed deadline for companies to update their Nutrition Facts label is harmful to the public’s health since consumers will be denied vital information to live a healthy life. This makes for a confusing marketplace, which is why many companies have gone ahead with the labels anyway. There are indeed questions about why companies with smaller production volume need more time, which leads to questions about whether the so-called “common-sense extension,” in the words of Bailey, is an avoidance of transparency (as mentioned, “added sugars” is another hot topic) and a push back against compliance (triplepundit).
The FDA will be accepting comments on the proposed compliance dates for 30 days, starting from October 2nd. The FDA is not interested in any un-related comments—only those concerning the extension of compliance dates.