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Changes Coming To Nutrition Facts Panel

Consumer reading Nutrition Facts Panel in grocery
July 9, 2014
by Candy & Snack TODAY

The Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) is slated to undergo its first overhaul in 20 years as the FDA proposes a number of changes, including how added sugars, calories, certain nutrients and portion sizes are declared on packs.

The administration reports that changes are being proposed to better reflect current scientific thinking about nutrition and the relationship between food/diet and chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

“The FDA felt the panels needed to be updated because consumers didn’t understand the information,” explains Bob Hahn, an attorney with the firm of Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz P.C., who notes the proposals will also remove information on nutrients and other ingredients that have no impact on obesity or public health.

Calories Will Be Prominent

A major goal of the FDA is to increase the prominence of calories on the NFP. This is due, in part, to the relationship between calorie intake and body weight and the FDA’s goal to assist consumers in recognizing and understanding the calorie content of foods.

The FDA is proposing larger, bolder fonts for calories, which will be listed at the top of the panel.

Because “calories from fat” are no longer considered relevant for disease risk or weight management, the FDA is proposing to remove this information from the label. This will have the added impact of featuring the calorie information in a less cluttered fashion in the most prominent position at the top of the panel.

Proposal to Label Added Sugar for First Time

The proposal also seeks to place new emphasis on added sugars by calling them out uniquely within the carbohydrate section of the NFP. The FDA is considering calling sugars “total sugars” and then listing “added sugars” on an indented line beneath total sugars.

Besides traditional sweeteners, such as sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey and molasses, the definition of added sugars would include other ingredients such as fruit juice concentrates and sugars that are isolated from naturally occurring sources (e.g., lactose). Sugar alcohols are specifically excluded from the proposed definition.

However, the feasibility of calculating added sugars presents a challenge, according to Laura Shumow, NCA director of scientific and regulatory affairs. “It is hard to enforce this requirement through analytical methods because it is impossible to differentiate between added and intrinsic sugars since they are chemically identical,” she explains.

To meet this challenge, the FDA suggests it could verify the added sugar label information by obtaining access to manufacturers’ records. It proposes allowing manufacturers to determine which documents to share with the agency.

“The FDA proposes that companies retain these records for at least two years,” Shumow explains, noting the administration is also proposing record retention for enforcement purposes of other nutrition information, such as dietary fiber and vitamin E.

In addition to the added sugars proposal, the FDA wants to make declarations for vitamins A and C voluntary, as these nutrients are no longer deficient in most Americans’ diets. However, the administration is considering mandating potassium and vitamin D declarations, as American diets tend to be deficient in both of these nutrients.

Shifting the Percent Daily Value

The Percent Daily Value (%DV) for a particular nutrient in a food is the proportion of the daily recommended intake of a nutrient contained in a serving of that specific food. The %DV can be helpful in showing how a particular food’s nutrient content fits into a person’s total daily diet. The FDA proposes moving the %DV values from the right side of the panel, where they currently reside, to the left side to increase their prominence. 

Research shows consumers don’t understand how to use the %DV information, and to address this weakness in the NFP, the FDA is considering adding a succinct statement defining %DV or interpreting low versus high %DV.

RACC Could Be Changing

Of particular importance to confectioners, the FDA is considering changing the reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) for candy, which are the data on which serving sizes and

NFP information are based. Currently there are unique RACCs for hard candies (15g), breath mints (2g), roll-type mints (5g), baking candies (15g), gum (3g), marshmallows (30g), and “all other candies” (40g).

“The FDA originally set RACCs in the early ’90s based on consumption data for candy at that time,” Shumow tells Candy & Snack TODAY. “Consumption has changed in the past 20 years, and the FDA is now proposing modifications to multiple confectionery RACCs.”

The administration is considering lowering the RACC for “all other candies” from 40g to 30g, as this is closer to the amount average Americans eat based on FDA assessments of consumption data, according to Shumow.

A lower RACC has the advantage of reducing the calorie, sugars and saturated fat declarations per serving. However, it also has implications for claims and might impede some products from making nutrient content claims such as low fat, for example.

The FDA is also considering adding an “after-dinner confections” category with a 10g RACC.

In addition, the administration is including powder and liquid candy in the “hard candies, other” category, with reference amounts of 15mL for liquid candies and 15g for all other items. This is in line with current industry practices and past FDA guidance.

Also being considered is a newly established category for cocoa powder, carob powder and unsweetened versions of those ingredients, with a RACC of one Tablespoon. The RACC proposal is based on analysis of recipes where cocoa powder is used as an ingredient. 

Revising Servings Per Package

In a major change from current labeling practices, the FDA is proposing to revoke the flexibility of companies to declare one or two servings per package for items that contain up to 200 percent of the RACC. This would include many king or share size packages of confectionery. Under the FDA’s proposal, these packages would not be labeled as a single serving.

For items that contain 200 to 400 percent of the RACC, the FDA proposes dual columns be used to list nutrient information per serving and for the entire container. The FDA states that these products could be consumed in one eating occasion or across multiple occasions; therefore, both types of nutrition information should be presented. Shumow says: “The FDA chose 400 percent as the cutoff because data show the vast majority of consumers will not eat more than four times the RACC.”

This dual column labeling provision would impact many confectionery products including theater boxes, most king or share size packages, and most tablet chocolate bars that will fall under the new “all other candy” RACC of 30g. For example, an 80g theater box of candy would now have to carry dual column labeling.

NCA Plan of Action

The FDA is accepting comments on all proposals until June 2, although Shumow reports the NCA has filed a 90-day extension request. In the meantime, the NCA held a webinar introducing members to the proposed changes, and is now soliciting feedback from them. Shumow expects to focus NCA comments on the added sugar labeling and associated onerous record-keeping requirements, the changes to the confectionery RACCs, dual column labeling, and ensuring a reasonable time frame for implementation. CST



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