FDA Extends Nutrition Label Compliance Deadline to 2020

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that food and beverage companies will have a roughly year and a half more to adhere to the newly updated Nutrition Facts label.

Under the Obama administration, brands had until July 26, 2018, to adjust all packaging. With the new extension, manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales will now have until Jan. 1, 2020; manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales have until Jan. 1, 2021.

The agency will accept comments on the new deadline for 30 days.

“The FDA is committed to making sure that consumers have the facts they need to make informed decisions about their diet and the foods they feed their families. The proposed rule only addresses the compliance dates,” the FDA said in a statement. “The FDA is not proposing any other changes to the Nutrition Facts Label and Serving Size final rules.”

The FDA did not immediately return NOSH’s request for comment.

Changes to the nutrition panel were led in part by former First Lady Michelle Obama, who said she believed the label changes could “make a real difference in providing families across the country information they need to make healthy choices.” The most notable adaptations to the panel includes a bolded, highlighted calorie count and a requirement for companies to list added sugars, as well as several revisions of what defines a “single serving.”

The timeline shift is not a surprise to industry leaders. In June, the FDA announced its plan to extend the compliance timeline — without the actual revised compliance dates — in response to concerns from several manufacturers and trade associations. Comments from these groups ranged from concerns about potentially adjusting packaging twice (once for nutrition label changes and once for potential GMO labeling) to questions about how to best convey nutritional information about specific products correctly.

The FDA explained that “the framework for the extension will be guided by the desire to give industry more time and decrease costs, balanced with the importance of minimizing the transition period during which consumers will see both the old and the new versions of the label in the marketplace.”

In a statement on their website, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said that they welcomed the news.

“Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed choices and these updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel are an important part of that ongoing commitment.” Pamela Bailey, GMA’s president and CEO, noted. “[The] FDA’s new compliance date will provide companies with the necessary time to execute these updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel in a manner that will reduce consumer confusion and costs in the marketplace.”

Still, others think pushing back the compliance date may actually add to consumer confusion. In response to the FDA’s initial announcement, the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a statement saying “the ability of the Trump Administration to repeat its mistakes is breathtaking.”

“As with its delay of menu labeling, the FDA will end up denying consumers critical information they need to make healthy food choices in a timely manner and will throw the food industry into disarray,” CSPI Health Promotion Policy Director Jim O’Hara said.