FDA Launches Program to Make Food Labeling More Useful

Article excerpt

A pilot program to test alternative nutrition label formats was launched in August with industry participation. It is part of an FDA program to make ingredient labeling more useful and understandable to consumers. Earlier in the summer, the agency published three proposals to revise food labeling.

The first proposal, published in the Federal Register of June 21, 1991, would amend the regulations concerning ingredient labeling to implement the ingredient labeling provisions of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990.

This act provides for a listing of all ingredients in standardized foods, such as mayonnaise and macaroni products, for which the government has set standards, or recipes, since the 1930s.

In the 1990 act, Congress lifted the previous exemption for the listing of mandatory and some optional ingredients in standardized foods because most shoppers today are not as familiar with the makings of mayonnaise or bread, for example. In addition, under the new law, certified color additives are no longer exempt from the labeling requirement and will have to be declared on the label by name (for example, "Blue No. 1").

The June 21 proposal also contains other provisions that would:

* require food labels to explain that the list of ingredients is in descending order of predominance

* require all sweeteners to be listed together in the ingredient list, under the collective term "sweeteners," when more than one sweetener is used in a product (following the collective term, each sweetener would be listed in parentheses in descending order of predominance by weight of the sweetener in the food)

* require the declaration of protein hydrolysates, used in many foods as flavors and flavor enhancers - importantly, for consumers with special dietary requirements, the declaration would have to identify the food source of the additive

* identify caseinate as a milk derivative when used in foods that claim to be nondairy, such as coffee whiteners

* provide a uniform format for voluntary declaration of percentage ingredient information

* require label declaration of sulfiting agents present in foods for which the ingredients are standardized. …