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FDA Urged to Keep Nutrition Facts Label on Schedule

Mary Caffrey
The Center for Science in the Public Interest released the letter proactively after the Trump administration has already eased rules for school lunches and delayed implementation of a labeling rule for restaurants.
May began with the Trump administration’s decision to relax national school lunch rules on sodium, whole grains, and milk. Within days, the restaurant industry learned that labeling requirements 7 years in the making would be delayed at least a year to May 7, 2018, and possibly eased during that time.

Now, the nutrition advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) isn’t taking any chances. The group has submitted a letter signed by more than 40 leading researchers in the fields of nutrition, public health, obesity, and diabetes, urging new FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, and HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, to keep updated Nutrition Facts label on schedule for its July 2018 rollout.

The group states on its website that some food interests are trying to delay the label’s implementation until May 2021. After lengthy delays, FDA updated a 20-year-old design a year ago, with key changes including larger type for the overall calorie count and a breakout of added sugars. The label incorporated recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommended that less than 10% of calories per day come from added sugars and saturated fats, and that Americans consume less than 2300 mg per day of sodium.

“Americans consume added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, in amounts that are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, and nutrient-poor diets,” the letter stated. The new labels would highlight the amounts of added sugar in a serving of food, as well the share of each day’s worth of sugar that serving contains.

With the labels, the letter stated, “consumers cannot follow advice from the government’s own Dietary Guidelines for Americans, American Heart Association, World Health Organization, and other health authorities to cut back on added sugars.”

Gottlieb’s predecessor, Robert M. Califf, MD, a cardiologist, hailed the updated label, which reflected the position of colleagues in his field.

The preemptive move on the Nutrition Facts label comes after many in the restaurant industry who were prepared to comply with that industry’s pending regulations were stunned by the Trump administration’s delay, which was posted 4 days before it set to take effect on May 5, 2017.

According to POLITICO, many larger players in the National Restaurant Association worked with Obama administration to develop standards to and end the patchwork of state and local laws that have emerged as health advocates have worked to end diabetes and obesity. Other segments of the food industry encouraged the delay, according to the report.

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