You may have heard that Canadian food labels are going to be changing, and maybe you even read my blog from March 1, 2016 discussing these changes. (Note: for Canada, the proposed changes have not yet become law, as of July 2017, but we expect that this will happen within the next 6 months or so.)
Our neighbors to the South announced similar changes, which were published as Final Rule on May 27 2016. Although similar to what Canada is proposing, the US FDA had imposed a significantly shorter compliance period: updated labels were mandatory by July 26, 2018 (or July 26, 2019 for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales), but then on June 13, 2017, the FDA announced its intention to extend the compliance date. FDA will provide details on what the new compliance date will be at a later time. As of July 2017, no Federal Register Notice has been issued with updates. In Canada, we have 5 years to make the necessary changes and updates, once the consultation period is over and the changes are posted in Gazette II as law.
Even with the rescinded compliance date, it is important to understand what the Final Rule entails eventually, since we know this will come into effect.
Aside from the addition of trans fat, it had been over 20 years since the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) was updated and the new requirements reflect new scientific information, including the undeniable link between diet and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. The intention with the new system of labeling and change in serving sizes is that consumers will be better equipped to make informed choices that achieve and maintain health.
The ‘iconic’ look of the Nutrition Facts (NF) table is being maintained, but the presentation and some of the information present on the NF table will be different. For example: The text for“Calories,” “servings per container,” and “Serving size” declarations will be increased in size and made bold, so this information is easy to locate at first glance. Also reference values for calculating “percent daily values” have been updated (for example: the reference value of sodium is now 2300 mg – 100 mg less than before) and serving sizes have also been changed to reflect modern portions.
What is entirely new to the NF table is the declaration of “added sugars” in both quantity and percentage, and the declarations of Vitamin D and Potassium (replacing Vitamin A and C), in both quantity and percentage. Declared alongside Vitamin D and Potassium, Calcium and Iron remain on the label. Lastly, at the very bottom of the NF table you will start seeing a new footnote that more adequately explains percent daily value and puts calories in context of the overall daily diet.
A new “dual column” label is being introduced and will be required on packages that can be consumed in one or multiple sittings. For example, a 90 g bag of chips would be labeled per serving of 30 g in one column and per package (90 g) in the second column. This will make it easier to feel guilty after eating that whole bag of chips, since you’ll know exactly how much fat and sodium you just consumed – no calculations required!
What I personally feel is a very significant change is the new requirement of records for certain nutrients. For the first time, it is now the manufacturer’s responsibility to verify the quantity of added sugars, certain fibers, vitamin E and folic acid/folate. The need for this record keeping is only for nutrients that do not have analytical methods for verification and manufacturers must keep the data on file for at least 2 years after the food is introduced into interstate commerce. If required, FDA will need access to the records in order to verify label claims, as applicable, and failure to provide records would mean that the food is misbranded (non-compliant and therefore not legal for sale).
We musn’t forget that Dietary Supplements are captured under the “food” category in the USA (not like NHPs in Canada – they are a subset of drugs – which is up for debate lately, but that’s covered another blog article!). Some of the changes noted above will affect dietary supplement labels, such as the listing order of vitamins and macronutrients and the “added sugars” declaration for example, but the “Calories” declaration does not need to be as prominent since Supplements usually don’t contribute a significant number of calories to the diet. Overall though, the Supplement Facts tabled for dietary supplement labels shouldn’t be affected too drastically.
Lastly, I’d like to catch the attention of foreign (non-US) companies: These labelling requirements must be met for foods being imported into the United States. Also, foreign firms are required to comply with the FSMA FSVP (Food Safety Modernization Act Foreign Supplier Verification Program) which is in full effect, as of May 20, 2017. (This is a hot topic, but a subject for another blog!).
The changes in the Final Rule has caused a stir amongst industry due to the relatively short time-frame to implement these changes and a lack of clear understanding of how to comply – guidance documents from the FDA are still in process! That said, the FDA has provided some useful information concerning the changes to the nutrition facts labels, which provides some information and helpful resources. There are label examples and PDFs available for download concerning serving size, and RDIs, to name a few.
In summary, the food labelling changes happening in the USA are quite similar to Canada’s proposals and in my opinion, are a step in the right direction. Consumers in general overwhelmed with information in today’s society and the less we have to read and interpret, the more effective that data will be. My only gripe about all of this change is this: It’s too bad Canada and the US didn’t harmonize the new labeling requirements so we could have one label that was compliant in 2 countries. Now wouldn’t that have been nice?!
NHP Consulting can provide you with a comprehensive product label assessment for your foods, natural health products, and dietary supplements in the USA and Canada. We can advise to changes required to come in line with the new regulations and also provide French and Spanish translations, as required. Contact us to find out how we can help.