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 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