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FDA plans front-of-package labeling regs

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

Commissioner Margaret Hamburg announces plans to impose a regulation for nutritional criteria for front-of-package labeling. In light of concerns about industry-sponsored Smart Choices and similar programs, Hamburg said FDA will examine existing FOP and shelf labels for foods to ensure they are not false or misleading under existing law (1"The Tan Sheet" Sept. 28, 2009). During an Oct. 20 media call, Hamburg said nutritionists question whether industry's FOP labels are "more marketing information than nutrition information. Judging from some of the labels we have seen, we think this a valid concern." She cited the system adopted in the U.K., in which the government set labeling standards and retailers used them to implement a system. FDA expects to "see significant progress toward our goal" of publishing the regulation by the end of 2010, the commissioner added

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Talking about front-of-package labeling

FDA seeks information comparing the efficacy of possible front-of-package nutrition labeling and how the labeling affects consumers' choices, according to an April 29 Federal Register 1notice. FDA also asks for marketing and advertising data to help develop better point-of-purchase nutrition information, and comments on how this information may affect firms' decisions to reformulate food products. FDA will accept comments through July 28. The agency in October said it would examine FOP programs and shelf labels to ensure they are not false or misleading after Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., asked it to investigate whether the Smart Choices voluntary FOP labeling misrepresented food choices (2"The Tan Sheet" Oct. 26, 2009, In Brief)

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Packaged-foods marketers including Kraft Foods, General Mills, Kellogg and Unilever will phase out the Smart Choices label, which FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, legislators and litigators recently complained misleads consumers to believe unhealthy foods are nutritious. The Smart Choices Program postponed operation Oct. 23 and Smart Choices Chair Mike Hughes said in a release the program welcomes FDA's interest in developing standard front-of-label and shelf-label criteria, as indicated by Hamburg (1"The Tan Sheet" Oct. 26, 2009). Hughes added the program will work with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is investigating the program because it deems "mayonnaise, sugar-laden cereals and other nutritiously suspect foods 'Smart Choices.'

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