By Rebecca Mayo, J.D.
The FDA is extending the compliance dates by approximately 1.5 years for the Nutrition Facts Label Final Rule and the Serving Size Final Rule. Food manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales will now have until January 1, 2020, to comply from the original July 26, 2018 date. For food manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales the date is extended from July 26, 2019, to January 1, 2021. After carefully considering the numerous comments received after the previous label dates were issued, the FDA decided that extending the compliance dates would ensure that industry has sufficient time to comply with the new requirements (Final rule, 83 FR 19619, May 4, 2018).
The rules. The two final rules (81 FR 33742 and 81 FR 34000) apply to most packaged foods sold in the United States (see Nutrition Facts label gets ready for summer; reshapes serving sizes, trims fat info, May 20, 2016). Because of the broad reach of these rules, the industry has expressed concern about the ability to make the required changes by the compliance date. The FDA issued a proposal to extend the compliance date by 1.5 year (see FDA proposes 1.5-year compliance deadline extension for updated nutrition labels, October 2, 2017) and received a significant response.
Comments and considerations. The FDA noted that extending the compliance dates will mean that certain information required on the new Nutrition Facts label will not be available to consumers on all foods as soon as original anticipated. However, the old Nutrition Facts label is still accurate and consumers with medical conditions should continue to follow advice they receive from a healthcare professional concerning their conditions and diet. The FDA also understood that the extension creates a longer transition period when the two Nutrition Facts labels are in the marketplace. However, both labels will be truthful and accurate and the FDA will be providing educational materials to helps consumers understand information on the labels and to ease the transition.
Based on information available to the FDA and the information provided by industry commenters, the manufacturers’ ability to meet the original compliance date is affected by many factors and not all manufacturers are able to meet the original date. Many comments were received relating to the processes involved in obtaining nutrient information from suppliers and timing involved for various size businesses to gain access to equipment for developing and printing new labels. The extension should provide adequate time for the coordination between suppliers, manufacturers, and labeler to ensure that the new labels are ready and in use by the new compliance dates.
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