Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Labeling Rules ~ The FDA has us all in limbo

Any day now, or more likely, sometime in 2014, the FDA will release the final rule for the national nutrition/menu labeling law officially meant to apply to restaurants (sit down and counter chains), vending companies, and similar retail establishments.

As of today, the consumer (you and I),  health advocates (myself,  CSPI, the RUDD Center,  many others), the National Restaurant Association, the National Grocers Association, the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, pizza restaurants and other food selling/entertainment venues (e.g., bowling alleys, cinemas) remain unawares and unprepared for what will be required.

Of those listed above, the consumer interest groups (and thus a majority of the general public), public health folks and the National Restaurant Association supported the menu labeling law, but the others did not nor did they expect to get caught up in it.  My personal belief is that anyone selling ready to eat, unpackaged food has an obligation to share with the buyer of that food, pertinent nutrition information.  I would include food sold from steam tables in grocery stores, hot dogs and the like sold in convenience stores and items sold from concession stands at bowling alleys, sports arenas and movie theaters.

I do think that pizza joints should get some leeway in how they present the information due to the individual, made to order nature of pizza.

Once the FDA makes its announcement, retailers will have 6 mos to 1 year to comply.  Then the next battle begins.  Updating the nutrition facts panels on packaged foods. In this case, the concern 
(of food companies) is whether the update is going to mandate  labels that imply a foods goodness, e.g., star ratings or multiple traffic lights.

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