FDA Announces Public Meeting to Discuss Modernizing Food Standards of Identity

  • This is a very interesting update: the situation has to be strictly monitored by interested parties and trade associations representing food manufacturers and exporters to the US market.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced it will hold a public meeting on September 27, 2019, to give interested parties an opportunity to discuss FDA’s effort to modernize food standards of identity and to provide information about changes the FDA could make to existing standards of identity.  FDA is particularly interested in changes that could be made across categories of standardized foods, often referred to as horizontal changes, to provide flexibility for manufacturers to develop healthier foods. FDA is particularly interested in changes that could be made across categories of standardized foods, often referred to as horizontal changes, to provide flexibility for manufacturers to develop healthier foods and to facilitate innovation.
  • The initiative is part of the agency’s comprehensive, multi-year Nutrition Innovation Strategy (NIS), which is designed to encourage industry innovation to improve the nutrition and healthfulness of food.  As part of the NIS, FDA is seeking to modernize food standards of identity in a manner that will: (1) protect consumers against economic adulteration; (2) maintain the basic nature, essential characteristics and nutritional integrity of food; and (3) promote industry innovation and provide flexibility to encourage manufacturers to produce healthier foods.
  • Because the agency issued many standards of identity decades ago, FDA and many stakeholders are concerned that some standards are out of date and may impede innovation. As consumers continue to seek more nutritious food options, FDA wants to ensure that standards of identity, or requirements outlining the content and production of certain food products, meet these expectations.  During a 2018 public meeting  on FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy, many participants expressed general support for FDA exploring modernization options that could permit changes across all standards of identity, or broad categories of standards, to facilitate innovation and flexibility to reformulate products to produce more nutritious foods. FDA is seeking input about horizontal changes that may provide manufacturers with additional flexibility to use, for example, new technologies and new or novel ingredients without impacting the basic nature and essential characteristics of standardized foods.
  • The September 27th meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852. The meeting will include introductory presentations, a panel presentation, oral comments by attendees, as well as breakout sessions. Public meeting attendees are encouraged to register online to attend the meeting in person and via live webcast.
  • For questions about registering for the meeting or to register by phone, contact Mark Gifford, SIDEM, 1775 Eye Street, NW, Suite 1150, Washington, DC 20006, 240-393-4496, EventSupport@Sidemgroup.com.
  • For general questions about the meeting or to request special accommodations due to a disability, contact Juanita Yates, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-009), Food and Drug Administration, 5001 Campus Dr., College Park, MD 20740, phone: 240-402-1731, email: Juanita.Yates@fda.hhs.gov.
  • For more information about the meeting, as well as instructions on registration and requesting to make an oral presentation, see the Federal Register Notice announcing the meeting and the  meeting page.
Important Dates to Remember:
  • Request to make an oral comment: September 12, 2019
  • Request special accommodations due to disability: September 12, 2019
  • Advanced registration closing date: September 20, 2019
  • Public meeting: September 27, 2019, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Deadline to submit written/electronic comments: November 12, 2019

 

US – Menu and vending machine calorie labeling rules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home. The rules are required by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

The menu labeling final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Covered food establishments will be required to clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards, next to the name or price of the item. Seasonal menu items offered for sale as temporary menu items, daily specials and condiments for general use typically available on a counter or table are exempt from the labeling requirements.

Some states, localities and various large restaurant chains are already doing their own forms of menu labeling. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, the law establishing nutrition labeling on most foods, did not cover nutrition labeling for restaurants and other ready-to-eat foods. In the years that followed, states and cities created their own labeling requirements for such foods. These federal standards will help avoid situations in which a chain restaurant subject to the federal requirements has to meet different requirements in different states.

The FDA considered more than 1,100 comments from stakeholders and consumers in developing these rules. In response to comments, the FDA narrowed the scope of foods covered by the rule to more clearly focus on restaurant-type food, made other adjustments such as ensuring the flexibility for multi-serving dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pie, and provided establishments additional time to comply with the rule.

In addition, the menu labeling final rule now includes certain alcoholic beverages served in covered food establishments and listed on the menu, but still provides flexibility in how establishments meet this provision. The majority of comments supported including alcohol because of the impact on public health. The menu labeling rule also includes food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks.

Restaurants and similar retail food establishments will have one year to comply with the menu labeling requirements.

To help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet, under the rule, menus and menu boards will include the statement:

“2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”

The menu labeling final rule also requires covered establishments to provide, upon consumer request and as noted on menus and menu boards, written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein.

Entities that are not required to comply with the regulation may “volunteer” to comply by registering with FDA.

The vending machine final rule requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exceptions. Vending machine operators will have two years to comply with the requirements.

The two final rules are available in the Federal Register: