July 13, 2009
FDA to study consumer reactions to front-of-package nutrition labels
This came from Food Label News:
FDA is proposing to conduct an experimental study to assess quantitative consumer reactions to front-of-package nutrition symbols. The proposed study is described in the June 1, 2009, Federal Register.
In part the study design uses a Web-based survey to collect information from a sample of 2400 adults. Participants would view a label from a set of food labels that vary in the presence and type of symbol, the type of food product, and the quality of nutritional attributes of the product. The study would measure various consumer reactions described in the notice.
July 01, 2009
TIME Magazine on posting restaurant calorie info
Interesting piece on Time.com (June 29, 2009) on the restaurant calorie labeling issue:
Fast Food: Would You Like 1,000 Calories with That?, by Sean Gregory
How sloppy is that triple Whopper with cheese? It has 1,250 calories, or 62.5% of the recommended 2,000-calories-per-day diet. The Fried Macaroni and Cheese from the Cheesecake Factory? Try 1,570 calories — according to health experts, you're better off eating a stick of butter. . . .
To be fare, the cheesecake probably has more nutrients than the butter, and it tastes better, so there are psychic benefits. I don't think calories are the whole story. But the article looks interesting anyway.
May 13, 2009
When is breakfast cereal a "drug"? When it's Cheerios
General Mills, maker of Cheerios, received a letter from the FDA yesterday warning that the health claims about fiber and heart disease on Cheerios boxes are unauthorized and make the cereal into a "drug." The claims about fiber show that the product is "intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, or treatment of a disease."
Some Cheerios boxes say "You can lower cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks."
The letter also states that the Cheerios website is treated part of its labeling because the URL is printed on the box, and the website says "Heart-healthy diets rich in whole grain foods can reduce the risk of heart disease." This statement is not an authorized health claim.
Here are some of the requirements for "qualified health claims" regarding fiber and coronary heart disease from 21 CFR 101.77(c)(2)(i):
(A) The claim states that diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber may or might reduce the risk of heart disease;
(B) In specifying the disease, the claim uses the following terms: heart disease or coronary heart disease;
(C) The claim is limited to those fruits, vegetables, and grains that contain fiber;
(D) In specifying the dietary fiber, the claim uses the term fiber, dietary fiber, some types of dietary fiber, some dietary fibers, or some fibers; the term soluble fiber may be used in addition to these terms;
(E) In specifying the fat component, the claim uses the terms saturated fat and cholesterol; and
(F) The claim indicates that development of heart disease depends on many factors; and
(G) The claim does not attribute any degree of risk reduction for coronary heart disease to diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber.
March 18, 2009
What is implied preemption in food liability cases?
FDA Law Blog had a post on February 10 -- California District Court Rules Against FDA Preemption of “Natural” Claim, describing a ruling in a California case about whether a product containing high fructose corn syrup can be labeled as "all natural."
Ricardo Carvajal of FDA Law Blog notes,
"This latest decision is likely to add to the existing confusion over the precise contours and reach of the doctrine of implied preemption in food liability cases. Notably, FDA has indicated that products that contain HFCS can be labeled as "natural," depending on how the HFCS is made."
Final USDA COOL rules, January 2009(Brought to my attention by a Center for Food Safety press release dated January 16, 2009.) USDA issued final country of origin labeling(COOL) rules January 15, 2009. The rules are available in the Federal Register.
Center for Food Safety criticized the rules because they contain some fairly broad loopholes -- mixed foods are considered to be "processed," for example, and are thus not subject to the requirement, even if the product contains two different types of covered commodities (such as peas and carrots).
Similarly a retail product that contains a covered commodity and a non-covered commodity, like a bag of lettuce with a dressing packet are not included in COOL.
Finally, items that are cooked, breaded, marinated, canned, smoked, cured, roasted, or restructured (e.g. emulsified or extruded) are not required to bear a COOL label.
Is this riveting, or what? Without analyzing the regs myself, it does sound as if one could ship a package of "frozen peas with a single bit of carrot" and escape the rules.
January 30, 2009
Two wees ago, the FDA proposed a change to the standards of identity for yogurt. FDA Law Blog has a nice post on the proposed rules: FDA Law Blog
The proposal itself is in the Federal Register (here).
From FDA Law Blog:
FDA has issued a proposed rule that would amend the standard of identity for yogurt and revoke the regulations on standards of identity for lowfat and nonfat yogurt. Under § 401 of the FDC Act, FDA has the authority to establish a reasonable definition and standard of identity for any food to “promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.” Currently, there are separate standards of identity for yogurt, lowfat yogurt, and nonfat yogurt. Under FDA’s proposal, there would be a single standard of identity for yogurt. This standard of identity could be modified to produce lower-fat versions under 21 C.F.R. 130.10, which sets out requirements for foods named by use of a nutrient content claim (e.g., “low fat”) and a standardized term (e.g., “yogurt”).
January 23, 2009
"Natural" Food Outsells "Organic" Food in 2008
Nielsen Media Research, of Nielsen TV rating fame, has released its "Healthy Eating Report for 2008". "Although much is written about organics, products labeled 'natural' generate much higher sales," said a representative of Nielsen Media Research.
The word “natural” on labels is regulated by the FDA and USDA and the term “organic” is heavily regulated by the USDA. However, the restrictions on the use of the word “natural” are far less restrictive (in the case of the FDA) or far more vague (in the case of the USDA), than those for "organic".
More on FDA and USDA regulations for "natural" on food labels.
January 21, 2009
Coke Sued over Vitamin Water -- Sugar!!
Center for Science in the Public Interest has sued Coca Cola over its promotion of Vitamin Water as "healthful". In fact, the drink has 33 grams of sugar per bottle, about the same as a can of pop. From the CSPI News Release:
"Coke fears, probably correctly, that they’ll sell less soda as Americans become increasingly concerned with obesity, diabetes, and other conditions linked to diets too high in sugar," said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. "VitaminWater is Coke's attempt to dress up soda in a physician's white coat. Underneath, it’s still sugar water, albeit sugar water that costs about ten bucks a gallon." VitaminWater typically retails for about $1.49 for a 20-ounce bottle.
For more information:
FDA – CFSAN – Structure/Function Claims
Text of the Federal Regulation
The regulation deals with labeling in regard to the health benefits of nutrients within food. This seems to ignore the health benefits of the food product as a whole. While it may be true that a specific nutrient in a food is beneficial, those benefits may be overshadowed by harmful effects brought about by the food product as a whole.
Read the CSPI complaint against Coke alleging unlawful business practices, fraudulent business practices, misleading and deceptive advertising, untrue advertising, fraud, misrepresentation, which was filed on 1/14/09.
January 06, 2009
Color additive ruling: cochineal extract and carmine must be labeled
Thanks to Ricardo Carvajal of FDA Law Blog for this one:
FDA has issued a final rule that requires declaration of the color additives cochineal extract and carmine in the ingredient statement on the label of all food and cosmetic products that contain those additives. FDA has made no changes to the proposed rule that it published in January 2006. The final rule is effective on January 5, 2011, but FDA states that it “will not object to voluntary compliance immediately upon publication of the final rule.”
So I had to know -- what is cochineal extract? Not surprisingly it comes from something called a cochineal, which is an insect. From Wikipedia:
This type of insect, a primarily sessile parasite, lives on cacti from the genus Opuntia, feeding on moisture and nutrients in the cacti. The insect produces carminic acid which deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid can be extracted from the insect's body and eggs to make the dye. Cochineal is primarily used as a food colouring and for cosmetics.
More: cochineal is used as a biological agent to control prickly pear cactus in Australia. See North West Weeds for more information.
November 20, 2008
Serving Facts Labeling on alcohol beverages
Bevlog (all about beer and wine labels) has a post with pictures about serving facts labeling for alcohol beverages. Since Bevlog has great label pictures, it's worth seeing!
November 19, 2008
Consumers Want Label Info -- Consumers Union Poll
A national poll shows strong consumer support for improved food labeling and more frequent inspections of food-processing facilities. According to food safety advocates, Americans want labels that identify use of genetically engineered or cloned ingredients, as well as expanded country-of-origin labeling. . . .
November 10, 2008
European Consumers and Food Labels
Here's an article on a study of consumer purchasing behavior. European consumers spend about 30 seconds choosing a food product, and they are more likely to read nutrition information when choosing yogurt, breakfast cereals, and "ready meals."
A pan-European study by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), presents interesting information for the food industry - with food labels found to be widely understood and recognised. “While there are several nutrition labelling schemes across Europe, our findings show that people recognise them and generally know how to use them to make informed nutrition choices,” commented Professor Klaus Grunert of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, who conducted the study for EUFIC. “Nutrition labelling should be seen as a key element in a rounded public health strategy.”
October 15, 2008
CSPI -- GAO Food Labeling findings "disturbing"
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Food Labeling (blogged here) is summarized in a Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) news release. CSPI calls the results "disturbing:"
“Americans rely on food labels for accurate nutrition information to improve their diets and reduce their risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes,” said CSPI legal affairs director Bruce Silverglade. “These disturbing findings basically show that the FDA is looking the other way while consumers are being misled.”
“It’s astounding that FDA lacks reliable mechanisms to ensure that the Nutrition Facts label is accurate and that health-related claims are trustworthy,” said CSPI senior staff attorney Ilene Ringel Heller. “FDA needs to reorganize its labeling division and be given a new mandate from Congress to modernize food labels. Millions of Americans are counting on label information to protect their health.”
September 21, 2008
Mislabeled restaurant fish
Last night I went out for dinner with some bicycling buddies. I ordered some sort of white fish. I don't remember what kind of fish it was supposed to be. It was good, but who knows what it really was? Sergei Lemberg's LemonJustice Blog has a post about a teen science project that analyzed restaurant fish and found it often to be mislabeled.
When we go out to a restaurant and peruse the menu, it’s a reasonable assumption that we’ll be served the dish that we order. Likewise, when we’re doing our grocery shopping, there’s no reason to believe that the products we buy are misrepresented. Until now, that is.
September 19, 2008
FDA Mulls Changes to Food Allergy Labeling
FDA held a public hearing earlier this week as part of its long-term plan to help manufacturers upgrade their labeling practices. From HealthDay.com:
TUESDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Responding to concerns that food labels aren't doing enough to alert consumers to the presence of allergens, or that the labels are just plain confusing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is hosting a public hearing Tuesday on what it can do to improve things.
"If you go down the candy aisle and you pick up any number of candy bars or other confectionery products, you are going to see a variety of these 'may contain'-type labels: 'may contain peanuts,' 'processed on shared equipment,' 'manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts or milk or whatever it is,'" said Anne Munoz Furlong, founder of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network in Fairfax, Va. "Nobody knows what it means. Some [labels] are completely ridiculous, and the result is that consumers are confused and are forced to have very limited food choices or take risks."
"We would like to see all of the food industry adopt one set of criteria for using these descriptions and a limited number of those descriptions," Furlong added. "There are about 30 different ways to say 'may contain' on the marketplace. That's way too many."
FDA is accepting written comments through Jan. 14, 2009. See the Federal Register announcement to learn how.
More from American Public Media .
Thanks go to William Mitchell College of Law student Lauralee Fritz for preparing this post.
September 18, 2008
FDA Proposes Label Requirements for Refused Imported Foods
Under a proposed rule, foreign food that is refused entry at one port will now be labeled "REFUSED" so that it will be easier to identify at the next port.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a proposed rule designed to reduce a practice known as "port shopping" which puts the safety of imported food at risk.
"This system will make it more difficult for food importers to evade import controls after being denied admission into the United States," said Randall Lutter, Ph.D., deputy commissioner for policy. "It will complement our ongoing efforts to monitor food imports."
When FDA refuses to admit a food into the United States, the food must be exported or destroyed. But some persons attempt to bring the refused food back into the United States in the same condition by shipping it to another U.S. port in hopes that the food will be admitted there.
The proposed regulation would require that shipping containers of food barred from entry, and any accompanying documents, be labeled as refused. The label would make it easier for FDA to detect previously-refused food.
The proposed rule implements a provision of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which provided the FDA with new authority to protect the nation’s food supply.
Under the proposed rule, all owners or consignees of refused food would be required to affix a label to the shipping container that reads: "UNITED STATES: REFUSED ENTRY" in clear, conspicuous, print. A label would also have to be affixed to all documents accompanying the imported food such as invoices, bills of lading, and electronic documents.
The FDA will accept comment on the proposed regulation for 75 days following its publication in the Federal Register. Written comments may be submitted to:
August 21, 2008
California bill, SB 1420 -- calorie labeling for fast food
A California bill would require calorie labeling for fast food. From the Los Angeles Times:
The proposed law, SB 1420, which the state Senate has passed and the Assembly will consider soon, would require chain restaurants with 15 or more outlets in California to list the calorie content for each item on their menus and menu boards. (The menus would also include other nutritional information, such as grams of fat and carbohydrates.)
Advocates believe such a "menu-labeling law" could help to halt, or at least slow, the trend that has led to 3 out of 5 Californians being overweight or obese. The new study -- by the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley -- is the latest evidence suggesting they may be right.
The LA Times article goes on to ask the question, what difference would it make and to report on studies of consumer responses to such information. Of course, if you never eat fast food, it probably won't help you lose weight.
August 14, 2008
"Natural" is still an unregulated term
From NaturalNews.com: FDA Refuses to Regulate "Natural" Claim on Food Packaging
The article points out that FDA received two petitions in the last year related to the word "natural." Here's my favorite quote:
While the FDA has not responded to either petition yet, Geraldine June of the FDA Food Labeling and Standards department, says that the agency has not seen enough evidence that consumers are being misled by "natural" labels for the issue to become a priority.
At least among my friends, "consumers are not being misled" because they already know that the word "natural" means absolutely nothing on a food label. DMB
July 01, 2008
Country of Origin Labeling for Mississippi catfish
It's always interesting! Julie McLemore, who works for the state of Mississippi alerted me to this bit of news.
Effective today, Mississippi restaurants offering catfish for sale must indicate the country of origin of the catfish on the menu. The law is administered by the MS Department of Agriculture and carries administrative fines for noncompliance.
The Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion Ledger website contains a slightly more complete account. I have to admit that I would have assumed catfish to be local, but The Catfish Institute has complained about imported catfish for some time, and some catfish imports have been rejected because of illegal drugs.
Here's the bill text.
June 30, 2008
CSPI: high fructose corn syrup not "natural"
The American Medical Association recently announced its conclusion that “high fructose corn syrup does not contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.” Not surprisingly, the Corn Refiners Association applauded this finding:
“This science-based decision by the nation’s leading medical body reaffirms that no single food or ingredient is the sole cause of obesity. Rather, too many calories and too little exercise is a primary cause,” said Audrae Erickson, president, Corn Refiners Association.
New research continues to confirm that high fructose corn syrup is no different from other sweeteners, according to Erickson. HFCS, like table sugar and honey, is natural. It is made from corn, a natural grain product.
As the Center for Science in the Public Interest is quick to point out however, there is not much natural about HFCS:
The Corn Refiners Association’s slick new advertising is deceptive in stating that high-fructose corn syrup “has the same natural sweeteners as table sugar.” HFCS consists almost entirely of glucose and fructose, but not a single molecule of sucrose. Sugar is 100 percent sucrose. It is true that adding a water molecule to sucrose and splitting it in half yields one molecule each of glucose and fructose—but that is not the same as saying that HFCS and sugar contain the same sweeteners.
It is also deceptive to imply that HFCS is natural. HFCS starts out as cornstarch, which is chemically or enzymatically degraded to glucose (and some short polymers of glucose). Another enzyme is then used to convert varying fractions of glucose into fructose. High fructose corn syrup just doesn’t exist in nature. . . .
More on the process from the Corn Refiners (they should know).
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUPS & CRYSTALLINE FRUCTOSE
High fructose corn sweeteners begin with enzymes which isomerize dextrose to produce a 42 percent fructose syrup. By passing 42-HFCS through a column which retains fructose, refiners draw off 90 percent HFCS and blend it with 42-HFCS to make a third syrup, 55-HFCS. Further processing produces crystalline fructose.
All the syrups share advantages--stability, high osmotic pressure, or crystallization control, for example--but each offers special qualities to food manufacturers and consumers. 42-HFCS is popular in canned fruits, condiments and other processed foods which need mild sweetness that won't mask natural flavors. Sweeter 55-HFCS has earned a commanding role in soft drinks, ice cream and frozen desserts. Supersweet 90-HFCS is valued in natural and "light" foods, where very little is needed to provide sweetness. Crystalline fructose's capacity to produce greater sweetness in combination with sugar makes it useful in presweetened cereals, instant beverages and other dry mix products.