Food Industry Urges Delay of Nutrition Facts Label
At Confirmation Hearing, FDA Nominee Gottlieb Indicates Updates Could Be Delayed Pending USDA’s GMO Labeling Rule
Big Food doesn’t want you to know how much added sugar is in your packaged foods—at least for another four years.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price obtained by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, executives from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and trade groups representing bakers, corn refiners, confectioners, millers, and meat and dairy producers are asking to keep the revised Nutrition Facts label from consumers until May 2021—five years after the Food and Drug Administration and then-First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled it last May. Even the “Vinegar Institute” and the “Association for Dressings & Sauces” are urging further delay of the label updates.
Questioned today before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, President Trump’s nominee for FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb indicated that he would favor delay of the Nutrition Facts updates to line up with whenever the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s upcoming rule requiring disclosure of ingredients from genetically modified crops takes effect. The trade associations in their letter to Price also support a delay for that reason.
At least one company, Mars, Inc. has told Secretary Price that if FDA issues final guidance, it could deploy the new Nutrition Facts label by July 2018. Otherwise it would only need an additional year to comply.
“It is mind-boggling that the food industry is fighting transparency and consumer information even though that’s exactly what their customers want,” said CSPI president Michael F. Jacobson.
The revised Nutrition Facts label includes a line for added sugars, a critical step forward in addressing this country’s obesity epidemic but one that stands to embarrass many makers of sugar-rich processed foods.
“It is mind-boggling that the food industry is fighting transparency and consumer information even though that’s exactly what their customers want,” said CSPI president Michael F. Jacobson. “Not only is industry undermining the public’s health—it is undermining its own credibility.”
Food companies are complaining about the costs, saying that the FDA gave them “only” two years to update their labels and that the cost to companies could be as much as $4.6 billion (the high FDA estimate) to meet the July 2018 deadline. However, the potential benefits for consumers total almost $78 billion over a 20-year span according to the FDA’s high estimate. In fact, some companies are already using the new labels, even though that 95 percent of companies—ones with annual sales of less than $10 million—actually have until July 2019 to use the new label.
The industry is also complaining that it will have to make decisions without final guidance from the FDA on issues involving dietary fiber and added sugars. The FDA has published draft materials on these questions and sought comment from stakeholders, including industry.
“In short, the food industry is seeking to delay giving consumers critical nutrition information for as long as possible,” Jacobson said
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).