Time for Food Labeling Reform? Introducing the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013

September 24, 2013

By Ricardo Carvajal

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced legislation – H.R. 3147, the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013 – that would grant FDA significant new authorities in the area of food labeling.  In what is identified as the bill’s “signature initiative,” FDA would be directed to establish a standard symbol system for front-of-package ("FOP") labeling for conventional foods.  A food would be misbranded unless its principal display panel ("PDP") bears “summary nutrition information that reflects the overall nutritional value of the food or specified ingredients” as required in regulations that would be issued by FDA.  

In addition, the bill aims to eliminate allegedly deceptive claims for conventional foods and to update nutrition labeling requirements with provisions that include the following:

  • FDA would be directed to issue guidance clarifying the substantiation requirements applicable to structure/function claims, and manufacturers would be required to provide FDA with documentation that substantiates their claims within 90 days of a request by the agency.
  • Additional trans fat-related restrictions would be imposed on the use of nutrient content claims for cholesterol and saturated fat, and new requirements would be imposed on the use of claims that characterize the level of trans fat.
  • FDA would update its definition of “healthy” to address added sugars and whole grains (at least half of the grains in a food labeled as “healthy” would have to be whole grains).
  • A food labeled as “natural” would be misbranded if it contains any artificial ingredient, including any artificial flavor, artificial color, synthetic version of a naturally occurring substance, or any ingredient “that has undergone chemical changes” (but not including food that has undergone a traditional process to make it edible, preserve it, or make it safe, and not including a food that has undergone a traditional physical process that does not “fundamentally alter” the food).
  • Disclosure of the percent of whole grain would be required for “made with whole grain,” “multigrain,” or similar claims, and disclosure of the percent of whole wheat would be required for “wheat” or “whole wheat” claims.
  • If a food contains any added color, any added non-caloric sweetener, or any added flavoring, that fact would have to be disclosed on the PDP.
  • Declaration of added sugar would be required, as would the percent of recommended daily calories per serving and the “percent of added sugars recommended for daily consumption” per serving.
  • Collective declaration of any sugars, non-caloric sweeteners, or sugar alcohols would be required in the ingredient listing.
  • Any product that can be “reasonably consumed on a single occasion” would be treated as a single serving.
  • Declaration of the amount of caffeine per serving would be required if the total exceeds 10 mg from all sources.

The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Categories: Foods