Nutrition Facts Label Changes Mean New Challenges and Opportunities

Nutrition Facts labelThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published proposals to update the design and content of the Nutrition Facts label (NFL) and associated serving sizes on Feb. 27, 2014. Two factors driving the FDA changes are undeniable: consumers’ expressed desire for the labels to be easier to read and use; and outdated nutrition science and food consumption data that supported the 1993 regulations.

Consumer research shows that more than half of food shoppers are using nutrition labeling (IFIC, 2013; Todd, 2014). Even so, within the first years of use of the NFL, 70% of consumers expressed the need for the labels to be easier to read and use (Kristal, 1998; FMI, 1995). Evolving nutrition science, including new Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), updated nationwide food consumption data, and up-to-date comprehensive, evidence-based Dietary Guidelines recommendations warrant changes. Keep Reading

The 2014 Farm Bill Crosses the Finish Line

The multiple year journey to farm bill reauthorization is closing in on the finish line. The trip to final passage stopped at the “dairy cliff,” took a fork in the road splitting off food support programs, and visited the rocky hills of farm program reform. Despite the detours, we’ve arrived. After one public meeting and dozens of closed door negotiations, the Senate and House of Representatives conference committee in January finally bridged the divide and reached agreement on a new five-year farm bill.

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What’s In a Name? Plenty if You Call It a ‘Drink’

Recently, the FDA released a long-awaited final version of its guidance regarding the differences between beverages and liquid dietary supplements. The “Guidance for Industry: Distinguishing Liquid Dietary Supplements from Beverages” had been promised over the course of the last two years as part of the ongoing dialogue between certain U.S. Senators and Congressmen and the FDA. So, now that it is out, what does it mean?

Of course, it is always important to remember that FDA guidances are not the law, but instead, reflect the FDA’s current thinking on the subject. That being said, while guidances aren’t law, they are instructive on how the FDA is likely to act regarding the topic and it is generally advisable to follow the guidance if a company does not want to run afoul of the FDA. Keep Reading

The Impact and Consequences of Banning Trans Fatty Acids

wheat crackersTo many the proposed FDA rule to deny GRAS status to partially hydrogenated oil—and thereby in effect banning it from use—would be a great public health benefit. However, this proposed rule is not without consequences to many individuals, so it is critical that this decision is made carefully.

The FDA and others have stated that further decreases in trans fatty acid consumption could decrease thousands of cardiac events and deaths. These calculations of saving lives by further lowering trans fatty acid consumption assume that the biological effects of trans fatty acid follow a dose dependent linear response. Unfortunately, the pharmokinetics of the biological effects of trans fatty acids are difficult if not impossible to confirm since most studies that show adverse effects of trans fatty acids had to use dietary trans levels in excess of 5% of total energy. FDA has calculated that trans fatty acid consumption of partially hydrogenated oils has decreased from 4.6 g per day in 2003 to 1.3 g per day (2.1 to 0.6% of total energy) in 2010. It is very common for kinetics to not be linear especially at extremely low or high concentrations of bioactive agents. Therefore, it does not seem scientifically prudent to make a bold statement of how many deaths a food ingredient is causing without any clinical data. Keep Reading

Food Safety Suffers During U.S. Government Shutdown

U.S. Government ShutdownThe partial U.S. government shutdown, now in its second week, has already started affecting the operations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hardest hit are the FDA operations related to foods. Consequently, food importers, retailers, and consumers should be concerned.

The shutdown will have lesser effects, at least in the short-term, on the FDA divisions that deal with human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, and tobacco, as each of these divisions collects some type of user fees, giving those divisions a buffer when government funding is unavailable, as is the case during the shutdown. Keep Reading

Farm Bill Outlook Uncertain: The Beginning or the End?

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Winston Churchill, November 1942

On Tuesday, June 11, the Senate passed S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, by a vote of 66 to 27. Although there were 260 amendments filed to the bill, only a few dozen were actually considered. This agreement also precluded Democrats and Republicans from crafting a package of amendments that could be made to the bill prior to final passage.

Farm bill action moved to the House the week of June 16. The House bill had savings in the food stamp program of $20 billion over the next 10 years, up from $16 billion in last year’s bill. On Thursday, June 21, the House voted to defeat the farm bill by a vote of 195 to 234 for the first time in history. It was the victim of continued divisions over food stamp cuts and the shape of future agriculture subsidies. Keep Reading

Industry-wide Impact of FTC’s POM Wonderful Ruling

Last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a final ruling in a case involving POM Wonderful LLC, determining that certain ads for its juice products made misleading claims about the drink’s health benefits. This case has implications beyond the immediate effects on the company involved. The decision will affect a wide swath of the food and beverage industries by further tightening the criteria that will be required to sustain claims that a given product treats a disease. The FTC said that the claims in the instant case must be backed by two randomized, controlled clinical trials. These are essentially the same criteria employed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in assessing new drugs. Keep Reading

California Rejects GMO Labeling: What’s Next for GMOs on Food Labels?

On Nov. 6, California voters defeated Proposition 37 (53.1% to 46.9%), “The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” requiring label disclosure of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If passed, the proposition would have prohibited GMO food and other processed food from being labeled “natural.” Keep Reading

Implications of the Farm Bill Expiration

The U.S. Senate and U.S. House Committee on Agriculture have passed their respective versions of the 2012 Farm Bill, but the legislation is stranded, and the 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2012. Here is a summary report on the current state of play and practical implications of the 2008 Farm Bill expiration. Keep Reading

The Farm Bill: Where Are We Now

FarmingThe House and Senate Agricultural Committee Leadership—Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Colin Petersen (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabinow (D-Mich.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)—are frustrated. Most House agricultural committee members want to keep farm subsidies as large as possible, but many other representatives are concerned about wasteful spending and unusually willing to interfere in the Committee’s business. So the current state of Farm Bill 2012 play is straightforward: everything up in the air. Keep Reading

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