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TRUTH MATTERS

Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report

  • VOLUNTARY NUTRITION LABELING

    In response to the White House Conference, FDA developed a working draft of various approaches to nutrition labeling and asked for comment by nutritionists, consumer groups, and the food industry. Then in 1972 the agency proposed regulations that specified a format to provide nutrition information on packaged food labels. Inclusion of such information was to be voluntary, except when nutrition claims were made on the label, in labeling, or in advertising, or when nutrients were added to the food. In those cases, nutrition labeling would be mandatory.4 This action was based on Section 201(n) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (FD&C Act)5 that stated that a food was misbranded if it “fails to reveal facts material in the light of such representation.” FDA argued that when a manufacturer added a nutrient to a food or made claims about its nutrient content, nutrition labeling was necessary to present all of the material facts, both positive and negative, about that food (Hutt, 1995).

    When finalized in 1973, these regulations specified that when nutrition labeling was present on labels of FDA-regulated foods, it was to include the number of calories; the grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat; and the percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (U.S. RDA) of protein, vitamins A and C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and iron.6 Sodium, saturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids could also be included at the manufacturer’s discretion. All were to be reported on the basis of an average or usual serving size. The U.S. RDAs were based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) set forth by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1968 (NRC, 1968). Because of the need for a single set of standard nutrient requirements for nutrition labeling purposes, the values selected for the U.S. RDA were generally the highest value for each nutrient given in the RDA table for adult males and non-pregnant, non-lactating females. However, values for calcium and phosphorus were limited to 1 g because of their physical bulk and solubility. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided for nutrition labeling of meat and poultry products in a similar manner through policy memoranda.7

    As can be seen in the annex to this chapter, few changes were made in nutrition labeling regulations over the next decade (Hutt, 1995; Scarbrough, 1995). FDA, USDA, and the Federal Trade Commission held hearings in 1978 to gather information on food labeling issues and suggestions on how to make improvements.8 The vast majority of comments from the hearing favored mandatory nutrition labeling but also suggested making changes to the format to make it more useful.9

  • The Rise in Use of Undefined Nutrient Content and Health Claims on Labels
  • The Initiation of Rulemaking for Nutritional Claims
  • INITIATIVES TO STANDARDIZE AND REQUIRE NUTRITION LABELING
  • Developing Reference Values
  • Establishing Required Nutrients for Food Labels
  • Moving Toward a Mandatory and Uniform Nutrition Labeling Policy
  • PASSAGE OF THE NUTRITION LABELING AND EDUCATION ACT (NLEA) OF 1990
  • Declaration of Nutrient Content
  • Determination of Reference Values
  • Establishment of Daily Reference Values
  • Basic Format of Nutrition Label
  • Determination of Serving Size
  • Single-Serving Containers
  • Serving Size and Health Outcomes
  • Specification of Nutrient Content Claims
  • Defining Descriptive Nutrient Content Claims
  • Defining Levels of Nutrients to Limit
  • Defining Levels of Nutrients to Encourage
  • Implied Claims
  • NUTRITION LABELING AS AN EVOLVING PROCESS
  • REFERENCES
  • ANNEX MILESTONES IN NUTRITION LABELING