The new FDA labeling requirements – Here is how you can meet international standards

If you work as a manufacturer in the food and beverage industry, you know that there is a copious volume of legal guidelines and requirements to adhere to. Particularly in terms of food product labels, specific national and international legislation governs the sale and distribution of goods. This is due to the informed consumer, the driving force in this industry. Whenever dietary habits change, so do product labeling specifications, the most recent example being the enactment of a new US-American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations to come into effect on July 26, 2018, which will necessitate manufacturers to do complete redesign of their labels.

Using nutritional labeling as a consumer guide

The definition of a general daily nutritional allowance (GDA) is an especially important cornerstone of food and beverage product labeling, and results from recommendations of an international scientific committee intended to help consumers to understand nutritional information based on a daily intake. Given in percentages, this information is aimed to give an indication of the amount a particular portion makes up in an adult’s daily recommended nutritional intake. While most countries in the European Union use 100-gram units to facilitate easy comparison of food items, the food and beverage industry in the USA, in accordance with the FDA, uses portion units. The reason for this is to make clear how many calories per portion a consumer is ingesting.

The over twenty-year-old FDA recommendations are already becoming outdated. Since they were published in 1993, consumers´ culinary habits have decisively changed. This is in added to the fact that scientific probes into the overall health of the population have engendered new findings about health and nutrition. The next logical step is to update the FDA guidelines to ensure the wellbeing of consumers. Thus, the aim of the FDA is to reflect the current scientific body of knowledge and at the same time, minimize the occurrence of chronic diseases such as obesity or cardiovascular diseases. To a lesser extent, the goal is to better orient the consumer with new product labels in making purchasing decisions of their food and beverages.

FDA certification means healthier consumers

For companies manufacturing food and beverages for the US market – whether in the country itself or in another country – after the middle of 2018, their products must be packaged with product labels which are compliant with the updated FDA rules. Otherwise, these products will not be allowed to enter the US-American market. For manufacturers, this means not only adjusting the product labels, but also updating their software. Only when the software used to generate product labels is updated to the most current standard can the new requirements be met and any necessary updates properly implemented. However, manufacturers are not the only ones affected by these changes to the FDA regulations. Restaurant chains with twenty or more locations, supermarkets that market their own brands, bakeries and even ice cream shops will also be affected and will have to adjust to the new regulations. These enterprises will be required to inform their guests and customers about the nutritional values in their menu items.

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The goal of the FDA changes is firstly to encourage consumers to purchase healthier products based on being better informed. For manufacturers, this means allowing consumers to be better informed by providing consumers with more data. Since product labels in the US do not reflect what people should eat, but rather, what they do eat, recommending a healthier lifestyle by way of product labels poses an additional challenge to companies. The FDA updates for 2018 are in the process of being implemented now.

Manufacturers must be aware of these changes

On the one hand, the FDA requires that manufacturers change the vitamin information in the nutritional label to reflect the adult daily allowance of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium and nutritional fiber. On the other hand, listing vitamins A and C, which previously had to be listed, along with the amount in grams of other important vitamins, on every label, is now optional. This adjustment likewise reflects changing dietary habits of US Americans. While vitamin A and C deficiencies were more common in the early 1990’s, now vitamin D and potassium deficiencies are more characteristic in the US population. Since lacking these vitamins is attributed to a higher risk for chronic illness, the FDA seeks to raise awareness about the importance of a diet rich in vitamin D and potassium by listing these items on the labels.

The same is true for indicating the fat content in food. General fat content, fat and trans-fat are now an important component of the new FDA-compliant product labels but now the corresponding calorie information is optional. Scientific research has shown that the type of fat has more influence on human health than the amount of food intake. A brand-new component is the mandatory requirement to list added sugars. Scientific evidence has shown that it is healthier to minimize calorie intake through added sugars. US-American consumers surpass the recommended daily calorie intake per day, since nearly 13 percent of their daily calorie intake is made up of added sugars. This again is a major cause of chronic illness – and this is what the FDA wants to minimize.

Further, it is important to specify the recommended daily allowance for an adult in percentages. A footnote on the label is intended to provide information about what the percentage means for consumer nutrition. It reads: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

Adjustment of portion size

The FDA mandates an adjustment of the portion size not according to what the consumer should eat, but rather, according to what the consumer actually eats. The package size plays an influential role in how much a person eats per meal. If the package is made for only one meal, the entire contents of the package counts as one portion size. For packages that contain multiple meals, the nutritional chart should be laid out in two columns, such that in the first column, the amounts are given per portion, and in the other column, per package. This lets consumers easily compare how many calories and nutrients they are consuming per meal, thereby making them more contentious about having a healthy diet.

Manufacturers producing goods for a US-American market must incorporate the design adjustments to the new FDA requirements starting July 2018. Calories, portion sizes and portions per package should be easily recognized by the consumer by printing these parts in bold. This will visibly highlight the most important information as well as allow customers to make well-informed purchase decisions. When listing the nutritional values, manufacturers will also have to follow a certain order on the label: first, the calories, second, macronutrients and salt, followed by the recommended vitamins and minerals as well as the optional vitamin specifications. Added sugars must be directly placed under the overall sugar content specifications on the label.

All the FDA updates listed here apply to all manufacturers with a minimum annual sales rate of 10 million US dollars or more must implement these changes starting July 26, 2018 and no later than January 1, 2020. Enterprises with lower revenue have one more year time to comply. So if you sell goods in the USA, you should start adjusting your production processes and labeling right away.

Source: FDA

Source: FDA

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