There are changes ahead in food labeling, according to Betsy Booren, director of scientific affairs at the American Meat Institute. Booren spoke at the Nutrition Labeling and Temperature seminar at the 2011 World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
Booren noted that the U.S. is in the midst of a serious nutrition initiative, driven in part by the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama. At the request of Congress, the Food and Drug Administration is currently evaluating what is appropriate for front-of-pack labeling for food items. They are gathering input from a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine and also plan to get public input on the topic.
Thus far, recommendations from the Institute of Medicine study show that it is best to target the general population as opposed to any individual sub-groups within the population in regard to nutrition labeling. In addition, the study has shown that it is useful to declare calories on labeling and to identify foods that are consistent with the recommended U.S. diet.
In addition to the work being done by the Institute of Medicine, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute are developing a nutrition labeling program that would be voluntary, fact-based and supported by science. As a result of this initiative, consumers are already seeing what is referred to as “fingernail” labeling – small fingernail-shaped graphics on food items that indicate such things as calories, sugars and fat.
Any new labeling requirement is unlikely to be mandated before 2012.
Booren noted that there is mandatory nutrition labeling that is currently underway and set to go into effect January 1, 2012. This includes labeling of raw meat and poultry. Labeling requirements will include labeling that makes lean and fat percentages much more evident to consumers. An example would be 80% lean/20% fat as opposed to a simple 80/20, which is seen on some current packaging.
Booren also noted that nutrition labeling on vending machine items and menu items in restaurants is under federal consideration.
A video of Booren speaking on this issue can be found at www.WATTAgNet.com. Her presentation will be available at www.pork.org after June 15, 2011.