CSPI Reaction to IOM Report on Food Labeling


December 11, 2003

The Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA in 1994 to require trans fat to be listed on labels and in 1999 to set a Daily Value (recommended daily limit) for refined/added sugars and to include a line for those sugars on Nutrition Facts labels. Today’s IOM report addresses both of those issues. In addition to the comments below of CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, a list of the food-industry connections the members of the IOM committee is available here.

Vitamins and Minerals: "Of greatest concern, the committee proposed that labels recommend lower levels of most vitamins and minerals. The committee advised the FDA to select 'daily values' (DVs) that meet only the average needs of the average person. Current DVs meet the needs of almost everyone.

"For example, the proposed DV for vitamin D (280 IU) would be one-third less than the current DV and half what seniors need (600 IU). The proposed DV for iron (6 mg) would be only one-third of the current DV (18 mg) and of what women of childbearing age need. The DVs for folate, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, and most other nutrients would also drop. A young woman who eats a cereal fortified with 100 percent of the DV for most vitamins and minerals would actually get only one-third of the iron and half of the folic acid she needs. If FDA accepts the panel's advice, companies would likely reduce the amounts of vitamins and minerals they add to foods and supplements.

"I'm concerned that these drastic changes indicate a lack of concern for the public's health."

Trans Fat: “The IOM committee’s indictment of trans fat hammers another nail in the coffin of trans fat in the food supply. The FDA needs to both implement the committee’s recommendation on labeling—a combined Daily Value for saturated and trans fat—and limit trans fat to very low levels in shortening and processed foods.”

Added Sugars: “Though the committee did not propose a daily limit for refined sugars, it recognized concerns about those sugars and exhorted the FDA to act with urgency use the food label to inform consumers about them. The FDA should now begin a rule-making to respond to the new report and to the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s petition calling for labeling of refined sugars. If the FDA doesn’t opt for listing refined sugars in the Nutrition Facts panel, it should consider a special consumer alert on soft drinks, candy, and other sugary foods.”

Committee Makeup: “I can only wonder how much stronger the committee’s recommendations would have been if the committee had not been so top-heavy with food-industry consultants and grant recipients. All but one of the committee members have had major or minor financial relationships with the food industry, including two people who serve on the boards of directors of trade associations. Biographies included in the IOM report fail to disclose that Fergus Clydesdale is chairman of the board of trustees of the industry-funded International Life Sciences Institute, as well as numerous corporate affiliations of other members.”

 

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