FDA Provides Temporary Flexibility for Nutrition Labeling of Certain Packaged Food due to COVID-19 Pandemic

From the FDA CFSAN updates.
FDA is issuing this guidance to provide restaurants and food manufacturers with flexibility regarding nutrition labeling so that they can sell certain packaged foods during the COVID-19 pandemic.   This guidance does not apply to foods prepared by restaurants. The guidance, due to the exceptional situation, has not been opened for preventive public consultation.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants and food manufacturers may have food not labeled for retail sale that they wish to sell at retail.  For example, restaurants may have purchased ingredients that they can no longer use to prepare restaurant food and instead wish to sell to their customers.  To facilitate the distribution of food during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today released a guidance document,  Guidance for Industry: Temporary Policy Regarding Nutrition Labeling of Certain Packaged Food During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, to provide restaurants and food manufacturers with flexibility regarding nutrition labeling of certain packaged food.
For restaurants that wish to sell packaged food to consumers directly, or to other businesses for sale to consumers, the FDA does not intend to object if the packaged food lacks a Nutrition Facts label, provided that the food does not have any nutrition claims and contains other required information on the label, including the following, as applicable:
  • a statement of identify
  • an ingredient statement,
  • the name and place of the business of the food manufacturer, packer, or distributor,
  • net quantity of contents, and
  • allergen information required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.
For food manufacturers that have inventory on hand that is labeled for use in restaurants, the FDA does not intend to object to the sale of packaged food that lacks a Nutrition Facts label by food manufacturers, provided that the food does not have any nutrition claims and contains other required information on the label, including the following, as applicable:
  • a statement of identity,
  • an ingredient statement,
  • the name and place of business of the food manufacturer, packer, or distributor,
  • net quantity of contents, and
  • allergen information required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.
Finally, if retail packaging for certain food products is unavailable, the FDA does not intend to object to the further production of food labeled for use in restaurants that is intended to be sold other than to restaurants until retail packaging is available. Although the guidance is being implemented immediately, it remains subject to comment according to the agency’s good guidance practices.
Separate from this guidance, FDA intends to work cooperatively with manufacturers for the remainder of the year regarding using updated Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels and will not focus on enforcement actions during this time.  FDA previously announced that it would do so for the first six months following the January 1, 2020, compliance date.

FDA moving down the road of Dietary Fibers definition

On 27th March the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it intends to propose that “cross-linked phosphorylated RS4” – regardless of source – be added to the definition of dietary fiber. The action was taken in response to a citizen petition from MGP Ingredients Inc.
Dietary fiber that can be declared on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels includes certain naturally occurring fibers that are “intrinsic and intact” in plants and added isolated or synthetic non-digestible soluble and insoluble carbohydrates that FDA has determined have beneficial physiological effects to human health.
The FDA established a definition for dietary fiber in its Nutrition Facts label final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on May 27, 2016. Based on available evidence, FDA has determined that the scientific evidence suggests that cross-linked phosphorylated RS4 can help reduce insulin levels following a meal containing a carbohydrate that raises blood glucose levels.
Including this current notification, 16 categories of non-digestible carbohydrates (e.g. mixed plant cell wall fibers, a broad category) are either included in the definition of dietary fiber or are non-digestible carbohydrates that FDA intends to propose to be added to the definition of dietary fiber (see Questions and Answers on Dietary Fiber for a list). Seven of these fibers were identified in the Nutrition Facts label final rule as meeting the dietary fiber definition.
Until FDA completes rulemaking regarding adding additional fibers to the regulatory definition of dietary fiber, the agency intends to exercise enforcement discretion to allow manufacturers to include the amount of these additional fibers in the dietary fiber declaration on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels. Firms can submit citizen petitions requesting that additional fibers be added to the definition of dietary fiber. Those petitions will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
(Source: FDA website)
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