A bill introduced in the House and Senate seeks to overhaul the marketing and labeling of processed foods. It would revise everything from the ingredients list to the nutrition panel to the use of terms like “healthy” and “natural.”
The Food Labeling Modernization Act (PDF), introduced in the House by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Frank Pallone (NJ) and in the Senate by Sens. Edward Markey (MA) and Richard Blumenthal (CT), directs the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to create a single standard for front-of-package labeling for all food products.
The bill gives HHS two years to develop new guidelines on how “made with whole grain” or “healthy” terms can be used on food labels. As it stands now, the proposed amendments would bar foods from being labeled “natural” or “healthy” if it contains more than 10% the daily value of added sugar per serving or if less than half of its grains are whole grains.
The proposed food labeling laws also seek to force manufacturers to list percent daily values for sugar and calories, as well as any added artificial or natural coloring, on the Nutrition Facts label.
“Americans deserve to know what is in the food they eat,” Sen. Blumenthal said in an article by The Hill. “By empowering consumers with accurate, truthful and concise information, this legislation will enable them to make healthier choices and outsmart deceptive pitches and promotions.”
The Implication to Consumers and Small Businesses
Small businesses in the food and agriculture sectors are at risk of increased burdens if the bill is passed into law, the National Federation of Independent Business warns (PDF).
Although consumers have the right to safe and nutritious foods, the proposed food labeling laws will simply increase the cost of production, the NFIB adds. Businesses will eventually have to pass on the extra costs to the consumers, making the bill a bad idea for both customers and small businesses, the group maintains.
Label Photo via Shutterstock
For several years now, there has been talk of overhauling the FDA Nutrition Fact Panel, the Ingredient Statement, the FALCPA Statement, and so on. In some cases, “Front of Package” (FOP) Label Claims have amounted to aggressive Marketing, but…they have – at times – become False Advertising (remember – Cheerios Lowers Cholesterol).
My concern though is this: what percentage of the Populace – not affected with a Food Allergy, a Chronic Food Condition, or a Food Related Disease – is actually going to “care” about changes to the Labels.
Studies have shown that more than fifty percent of Shoppers have no idea what the Fact Panel Data means, and have no desire to learn. Some Mobile Health Apps actually help “make sense” of the Data, but none of these Apps is a “runaway hit”.
What I do see is that considerable attention is being given to Sustainability, Country of Origin, Fair Trade Practices and Pricing, and Genetically Modified Organisms. All factors that “play well” for both Politicians and the Press.