Just before the Compliance Date, FDA Issues Final Guidance on Serving Size-Related and Miscellaneous Issues Regarding the “New” Nutrition Labeling Regulations

January 6, 2020By Riëtte van Laack

As we previously reported, in 2016, FDA issued significantly revised nutrition labeling regulations for foods and dietary supplements.  The compliance date is January 1, 2020 for all entities except those with less than 10 million dollars in annual sales.

The updated regulations resulted in many questions which FDA addressed in various guidances issued since 2016.  The development of guidance has been slow.  In fact, on December 30, two days before the compliance date, FDA issued the final guidance titled “Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One Eating Occasion, Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed, Serving Size-Related Issues, Dual-Column Labeling, and Miscellaneous Topics.”  The final guidance differs from the draft guidance in only two substantive respects:

  1. FDA modified the question and response regarding whether products sold in small packages eligible for the simplified nutrition facts may use the truncated statement “Not a significant source of other nutrients,” or must list all nutrient that are present in insignificant amounts to clarify that the statement “Not a significant source of other nutrients” is not limited to sugar free chewing gum but may be used on all products for which the package size may render it impracticable to include the long statement.
  2. FDA modified the response to a question regarding the placement of the nutrition facts to clarify that it may not be placed on the bottom of packages (such as the bottom of boxes, cans, and bottles), unless they are visible during normal retail display and consumer handling.

FDA had issued the draft guidance in November 2018.  Even though the Agency received only forty comments, FDA took more than one year to finalize the guidance.  Fortunately, as we reported here, in October 2019, FDA announced that it intends “to work cooperatively with manufacturers” and “will not focus on enforcement actions” regarding the new nutrition labeling requirements until July 1, 2020, giving companies time to review this final guidance and adjust their labels accordingly.

The update to the nutrition labeling regulations has many consequences that have yet to be addressed, e.g., the impact on nutrient content claims and disqualifying nutrient levels.  We will continue monitoring FDA actions on this topic in 2020 (and beyond).