FDA to test front-of-package labels for enhanced nutrition info

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is carrying out its latest studies with consumers on its plans for front-of-package labels on food products.

The FDA is conducting consumer research to help inform the development of a front-of-package (FOP) labelling scheme.

Plans for the labels were announced in September last year when President Biden unveiled a National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

The FDA is exploring the introduction of “a standardised, science-based FOP scheme that helps consumers, particularly those with lower nutrition literacy, quickly and easily identify foods that are part of a healthy dietary pattern”.

In a filing on the FDA website announcing the research, the agency said the move follows the use of focus groups last year.

The new FOP labels are intended to “complement” the existing Nutrition Facts label used on packaged foods, the FDA said. It wants to give US consumers “additional context to help them identify healthier food selections”.

The agency intends to implement new regulations on labels by December.

“The US continues to face an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases, many of which are experienced disproportionately by racial and ethnic minority groups, those with lower socioeconomic status, and those living in rural areas,” the FDA added.

“To help address this, the FDA is continuing to prioritise its nutrition activities to help empower consumers with nutrition information to identify healthier choices more easily. The consumer research the FDA is announcing today is intended to further inform our work in this important area.”

When the White House announced the plans last September, US industry body the Consumer Brands Association welcomed the new strategy but emphasised the need not to “hurt” consumers grappling with higher food prices.

“As the administration proceeds, we urge against implementing policies that may inadvertently hurt consumers, especially in the volatile economic environment that has caused a spike in the cost to manufacture grocery products,” the Washington-based body, which made recommendations in the proposals, said in a statement.

“Focusing on incentive-based and voluntary initiatives, such as voluntary interpretive front-of-pack labelling schemes that are fully backed by extensive research, has the potential to positively affect our shared hunger, nutrition and health policy goals.”

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