By CANDICE CHOIAP Food Industry Writer, and Associated Press reporter Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
NEW YORK (AP) — A revamped nutrition facts panel designed to make it easier for Americans to see how many calories and added sugars are in packaged foods and drinks is being delayed.
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it plans to push back the deadline for a rule requiring food companies to use the new label. It’s the Trump administration’s latest delay of the Obama administration’s rules intended to improve food labeling and make foods healthier and safer.
The revised nutrition facts panel would make the calorie counts on packaged food and drinks more prominent, adjust serving sizes to be more realistic and specify the amount of added sugars in products. The labels currently list how many total sugars are in a product, including those that are naturally occurring, such as in fruit and milk.
Previously, the FDA had given companies until July 26, 2018, to comply, with smaller food makers getting an extra year. On Tuesday, the FDA said it intends to give companies additional time to be in compliance. It did not provide a specific deadline. Spokeswoman Deborah Kotz said in an email that details will be released at a later date.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups had asked for the deadline to be pushed to 2021, according to a letter sent earlier this year to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was appointed by President Donald Trump. The letter was obtained by the health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said food and beverage companies want to help people make informed choices, but the “fast-approaching compliance deadline” was difficult to meet without final guidance from the FDA on certain details. For instance, the association noted that the FDA still needs to evaluate whether some commonly used ingredients in food products can continue to be counted as fiber on the new panel.
Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy for CSPI, said the delay will only cause confusion as some companies switch to the new label as planned, ahead of others.
“The longer you draw this out, the more confusing the marketplace becomes,” he said.
Candy maker Mars Inc., for instance, said it is still planning to start rolling out the new nutrition facts panel on select products in coming months and be in full compliance by next year.
Spokesman Brad Figel noted that postponing the deadline for too long would result in there being two nutrition facts panels in the marketplace for an extended period of time. Still, he said he wasn’t surprised by the FDA’s decision.
“There’s just been a lot of pressure to extend the deadline,” Figel said.
The FDA also recently delayed a rule that would require restaurants and grocery and convenience store chains to post calorie counts for prepared foods. That rule was supposed to go into effect last month, but was delayed until next year. That is also leading to inconsistency in what people see, since some businesses had already started posting the calorie counts in anticipation of the previous deadline.
The Agriculture Department has also delayed animal welfare standards for organic foods and sodium standards for federally subsidized school lunches.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Office of the Secretary
Washington, D.C. 20250
NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK
June 19 – 25, 2017
By the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America
WHEREAS pollinator species such as honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies are essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing food and are vital to keeping items such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets; and
WHEREAS healthy pollinator populations critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers, of rural America, and of the U.S. economy; and
WHEREAS pollinator losses over the past few decades require immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect environmental health; and
WHEREAS it is critically important to encourage the protection of pollinators; increase the quality and amount of pollinator habitat and forage; reverse pollinator losses; and help restore pollinator populations to healthy levels;
NOW, THEREFORE, in recognition of the vital significance of protecting pollinator health, I, Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, do hereby proclaim June 19 – 25, 2017, as National Pollinator Week. I call upon the people of the United States to join me in celebrating the significance of pollinators with appropriate observances and activities
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 24th day of May 2017, the two-hundred forty-first year of the Independence of the United States of America.