FDA Indicates Its Concern Over Potential for Misuse of Front-of-Package Symbols in Food LabelingDecember 16, 2008
By Ricardo Carvajal –
According to a recently-issued Letter to Manufacturers, FDA “feels it is imperative to remind its constituents that front-of-package symbols can at times constitute nutrient content claims” that are subject to FDA’s regulatory requirements at 21 C.F.R. 101.13 and Subpart D of Part 101. A nutrient content claim is one that expressly or impliedly characterizes the level of a nutrient in a food (e.g., low fat, 100 calories). Manufacturers are making increasing use of front-of-package symbols to convey information about the nutritional attributes of their products in a simplified, consumer-friendly format. FDA has been aware of the trend, and held a public hearing on the subject in 2007. But it appears that some manufacturers have been making express or implied nutrient content claims without adhering to the regulatory requirements that attach to such claims. FDA states that it “will notify manufacturers when we see any front-of-package symbols that are explicit or implied nutrient content claims that are not consistent with current requirements or where such front-of-package symbols are used in a manner that is false or misleading.” Although not noted in FDA's letter, it is permissible to include a statement in labeling about the amount or percentage of a nutrient present in a food if the conditions specified in 21 C.F.R. 101.13(i) are met.