The Food Labeling Modernization Act Is Back

December 3, 2015

By Riëtte van Laack

On November 23, an updated version of the Food Labeling Modernization Act (FLMA) of 2013 was introduced.  Representatives Frank Pallone and Rosa DeLauro introduced the House bill (H.R. 4061) and a Senate version (S. 2301) was introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey.  

The FLMA of 2015 proposes to amend the FDC Act to “strengthen requirements related to nutrient information on food labels, and for other purposes.”  Similar to the 2013 version (see our previous post here), the FLMA of 2015 addresses various labeling issues for conventional foods only, and not dietary supplements.  The FLMA of 2015 includes many of the same provisions as the 2013 version requiring front-of-packaging labeling, issuance of a regulation defining “natural,” an update to the definition of “healthy,” updates to the Nutrition Facts box (NFB) information and format, a regulation specifying the format of the ingredient statement, and the disclosure of caffeine content above 10 mg caffeine per serving.  So what is “new?”  

Possibly, the two most significant updates are the new provision adding sesame to the list of the major food allergens and the new provision requiring submission of food label information for imported foods.  

The FLMA adds sesame as a major food allergen and requires that FDA issue a regulation regarding the disclosure for sesame only.  These new provisions seem to mirror a 2014 Citizen Petition by CSPI.  The FLMA further includes a new requirement for an allergen declaration for non-packaged food at the retail level.  

The FLMA also includes a new provision requiring that the manufacturer or importer of any imported food submit to FDA information that must be included in the labeling of food (the NFB; ingredient statement, and any natural or artificial flavoring; any applicable allergy statements; nutrient content claims; health claims; a copy of the principal display panel; and whatever else FDA might request).  This information would be used to create a public database. 

Other new provisions concern a requirement that FDA perform consumer studies to assess consumers’ understanding of “natural” in its rulemaking defining this term, and a requirement that the NFB declare the amount of sugars and added sugars in teaspoons, in addition to grams.  The 2013 provision requiring grouping of all sources of sugar, non-caloric sweeteners, and sugar alcohols in the ingredient statement has been removed.  The FLMA of 2015 also includes new definitions of “synthetic” and “artificial” and states that high-fructose corn syrup is an example of a synthetic substance.