WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration will not focus on enforcement actions for six months after a new Nutrition Facts Label goes into effect on Jan. 1. Instead, during the first six months of 2020, the F.D.A. will work with manufacturers to meet the new Nutrition Facts Label requirements.
The F.D.A. said it heard from several manufacturers and groups that more time may be needed to meet all the requirements. The Food & Beverage Issue Alliance listed problems with meeting the new requirements in a Sept. 30 letter to the F.D.A. Thirteen industry groups made up the alliance.
The letter requested a six-month delay and listed three main reasons why companies would have a difficult time meeting the Jan. 1 date for labeling compliance for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales.
First, updating all the labels involves considerable time, planning resources and complexity. New labels must be designed. Plates must be made, and scheduling must be made with the printing company. Software vendors, ingredient suppliers, graphic designers and printing companies all are involved in the process.
Second, many companies would have had existing label inventory that would have gone unused by the Jan. 1 compliance date. Disposing of the labels in landfills would have involved cost and would have impacted the environment.
Third, the six-month delay will not result in the use of false or misleading labels, according to the letter. Instead, it will involve the continued use of labels for a short period of time that comply with nutrition labeling rules that have been in effect for more than 20 years.
“The baking industry has always been transparent with its customers and consumers,” said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Bakers Association. “Product labeling is an important component to helping customers and consumers to make informed choices about the products they buy to feed their families. A.B.A. is pleased our members will be given more flexibility in order to meet the new labeling requirements.”
Besides the A.B.A., other members of the Food & Beverage Issue Alliance include the American Frozen Food Institute, the American Herbal Products Association, the Corn Refiners Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Food Marketing Institute, the Independent Bakers Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Automatic Merchandising Association, the National Confectioners Association, the National Grocers Association, the Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association, and SNAC International.
The F.D.A. finalized the new Nutrition Facts Label on May 27, 2016. Major changes include an increase in the type size for calories, the mandatory declaration of vitamin D and potassium, and the mandatory listing of added sugars. Compliance dates originally were July 26, 2018, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales and July 26, 2019, for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales. The dates later were extended to Jan. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021.
The Sept. 30, 2019, letter from the Food & Beverage Issue Alliance requested the F.D.A. provide similar flexibility to the manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual sales as they also will face challenges in achieving 100% compliance by Jan. 1, 2021. The F.D.A.’s recent decision, however, only applies to the Jan 1, 2020, compliance date, which is for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales.
More information on the new Nutrition Facts Label may be found here.