Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
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Rudd Radar

Legislators Propose Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013

September 26, 2013

Three members of Congress recently proposed legislation which would require food labels to provide clear and consistent nutrition information to consumers. The Food Labeling Modernization Act, introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Rosa DeLauro and Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., seeks to create a single, standard front-of-package label; require greater disclosure of sugar and caffeine content; and define how common claims such as "natural" and "healthy" can be used.

Research by the Rudd Center published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that a front-of-package label can play an important role in health and nutrition and can improve the accuracy of judgments about the nutritional quality of foods and beverages. However, major food labeling requirements have not been updated since 1990 and in some cases have not been changed since 1938. The bill's sponsors assert that the current labels do not provide the information that today’s consumer needs to evaluate and compare products in order to make healthy choices.

“The Food Labeling Modernization Act will give food labeling requirements in America a major, common-sense, and long-overdue overhaul by making sure food labels are a clear, accurate, and fair representation of the product,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

In 2009, Congress asked the Institute of Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration to conduct a study on labeling and make recommendations for a standard label.  However, in January 2011, the food industry announced its own nutrition labeling approach originally called Nutrition Keys, and then changed to Facts Up Front.  Some health experts believe that the industry’s food labeling approach was introduced to preempt the imposition of an alternative system that would be based on available and relevant science.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which is the voice of more than 300 leading food, beverage and consumer product companies, has expressed concerns over the bill.

The current bill calls on the FDA to implement one useful, consistent, front-label nutrition symbol, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

More information is available on the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013 here.