WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not focus on enforcement actions for six months after a new Nutrition Facts Label goes into effect on Jan. 1. Instead, during the first six months of 2020, the FDA will work with manufacturers to meet the new Nutrition Facts Label requirements.
The FDA said it heard from several manufacturers and groups that more time may be needed to meet all the requirements. The Food & Beverage Issue Alliance listed problems with meeting the new requirements in a Sept. 30 letter to the FDA. Thirteen industry groups made up the alliance.
The letter requested a six-month period of enforcement discretion and listed three main reasons why companies would have a difficult time meeting the Jan. 1 date for labeling compliance for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales.
First, updating all the labels involves considerable time, planning resources and complexity. New labels must be designed. Plates must be made, and scheduling must be made with the printing company. Software vendors, ingredient suppliers, graphic designers and printing companies all are involved in the process.
Second, many companies would have had existing label inventory that would have gone unused by the Jan. 1 compliance date. Disposing of the labels in landfills would have involved cost and would have impacted the environment.
Third, the six-month period of enforcement discretion will not result in the use of false or misleading labels, according to the letter. Instead, it will involve the continued use of labels for a short period of time that comply with nutrition labeling rules that have been in effect for more than 20 years.
The FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts Label on May 27, 2016. Major changes include an increase in the type size for calories, the mandatory declaration of vitamin D and potassium, and the mandatory listing of added sugars. Compliance dates originally were July 26, 2018, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales and July 26, 2019, for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales. The dates later were extended to Jan. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021.
The Sept. 30, 2019, letter from the Food & Beverage Issue Alliance requested the FDA provide similar flexibility to the manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual sales as they also will face challenges in achieving 100 percent compliance by Jan. 1, 2021. The FDA’s recent decision, however, only applies to the Jan. 1, 2020, compliance date, which is for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual sales.
More information on the new Nutrition Facts Label may be found here.