Another Request for a Stay and Reconsideration of the Final Nutrition Labeling Rule

June 22, 2017By Riëtte van Laack

As readers of this blog know, in May 2016, FDA issued a final rule amending the nutrition labeling regulations for food and dietary supplements. Major amendments include a new requirement to declare “added sugar,” the setting of a daily value for added sugars (but not for total sugars), and a new definition of dietary fiber (see our previous post here).

FDA has received at least two Citizen Petitions requesting a stay of the rule and reconsideration (or withdrawal) of the definition of dietary fiber. Last week, the Agency announced that it will extend the compliance date to provide companies with guidance regarding the final rule (see our previous post here).

FDA’s proposal to require added sugars may be the most controversial issue and generated many comments. However, besides comments to a draft guidance addressing added sugars and comments and questions in other contexts, no party had so far formally objected to the new requirement to declare added sugars. That changed on June 20, 2017, when the Natural Products Association (NPA) submitted a Citizen Petition asking FDA for a stay and reconsideration of the final rule. NPA’s Petition focuses on the rule’s requirements for added sugar but also addresses the dietary fiber definition.

The Petition identifies seven grounds for a stay and reconsideration, five of which focus on the requirement to declare added sugars. Grounds include FDA’s alleged failure to comply with rulemaking procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act and the new administration’s regulatory agenda and directives. Petitioner also asserts that the final rule requiring declaration of added sugars raises First Amendment concerns because it imposes unjustified and unduly burdensome disclosure requirements on companies. NPA also finds fault with FDA’s analyses and conclusions based on consumer and eye tracking studies.

With respect to the dietary fiber definition, Petitioner alleges that all non-digestible carbohydrates have a physiological effect by virtue of being non-digestible and thereby “promoting an osmotic and bulk laxative physiological effect.” In somewhat caustic terms, Petitioner challenges FDA to show that a non-digestible carbohydrate does not have such a beneficial effect.

Thus far, FDA has not given any indication that it will reconsider the final rule. We will be monitoring new developments.