A lot of my recent posts have covered specific food items, and I feel like the Important Dates sections has been slightly neglected. This may have something to do with the resignation of the FDA Commissioner, but there is a new acting Department Head, and I’m starting to see notices posted by the FDA again. This post will go over the open comment period on Food Labeling: Nutrition Facts Label and Supplement Facts Label.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires the labeling of certain nutrients in food and allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to either require additional declarations or to remove information. These regulations also determine serving sizes, the appearance of the Nutrition Facts label, Daily Reference Values, and a plethora of other things.
They also require manufacturers to keep records to verify things like the amount of sugar, vitamin E, and folic acid declared on the Nutrition or Supplement Facts label. These must be provided to the FDA upon request during an inspection. The FDA estimates the burden of collection for such information. They currently count 31,283 food manufacturers in the country with a burden of 1 hour per piece of information. There may be additional time needed for products containing carbohydrates that aren’t dietary fiber and products with modifications to serving size, due to extra reporting needed.
Based on experience, the FDA says that responsible manufacturers use and retain these type of records as a normal part of doing business. Because of this, they do not consider the burden to be high. If you disagree with any of this, it might be helpful to leave a comment.
So, why am I giving a description of this comment period since it’s geared towards manufacturers? Well, first this one is in relation to the changing Nutrition Facts label. Compliance and implementation of the new label has been pushed back from May 2018 to January 2020 or 2021, depending on company size. I’ll do a post going into the new label, but once it’s widely implemented.
Second, I want to illustrate the amount of regulatory burden that goes into making a change on something as simple as a Nutrition Facts Panel. It takes years of data collection and back-and-forth through regulatory agencies, and sometimes even longer for eventual compliance. This is one comment period that governs a single subject among a complex framework. It’s mundane, but it does determine a lot of what we see in stores and the information we receive.
Now, it is a lot of regulations to sift through, but that doesn’t mean you should be discouraged from leaving comments or participating with your opinions, needs, or concerns. Quite the opposite. It’s important to participate on food matters through agencies that have direct control over our food supply. If you don’t, someone else will, and they might want the exact opposite of what you do.
The FDA recently revamped their website, and it’s a lot more user-friendly, especially the Contact section. The USDA looks like it also has an updated website, and has contact information as well. They’ll answer your questions and look at your comments. Seriously.
Update 6/12/19: I just spoke with the Federal Register, because I’ve been having issues with the regulations.gov website and had an interesting conversation. The link that was on this page had a slightly different URL with “test” before the name. I was told that the test website does not necessarily contain the same information and that comments left may not go through. They were unaware of the original website having loading issues, but are looking into it. In the meantime, there is a beta site available for an upcoming redesign that does have the correct dockets and where comments will go through. I’ve updated the link on this page, and will post if I hear any updates on the original site.
Update 6/19/19: I was able to access the actual regulations.gov website today. Looks like whatever issue there was is now fixed.