Tuesday, April 12, 2005

FDA asks for public comment on food label changes

From the FDA press release earlier this month:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today asked for public comment on two proposals to improve the appearance and content of the nutrition label to help consumers make better-informed weight management decisions. The proposals focus on providing practical serving size information and increasing the prominence of calories on the food label.

The proposals are direct responses to the recommendations contained in the FDA's Obesity Working Group (OWG) report entitled "Calories Count." The OWG final report made short and long-term recommendations that are based on the scientific fact that weight control is mainly a function of caloric balance.

I think the first proposal would essentially make the calorie count on the Nutrition Facts label more prominent, through bigger lettering or boldface. I am somewhat indifferent, mainly because I suspect few people count calories. Some colleagues who I respect like this proposal anyway, not so much because people can count calories over the course of the day, but so that it is easier to see which of two seemingly comparable food products has fewer calories.

The second proposal would rationalize the serving size standards used in the Nutrition Facts label. For example, a 20 oz. soda would have to report all of its calories, rather than pretending to be several servings (each of which has a reasonable number of calories). I think this proposal seems wise, although I haven't mastered the details yet.

FDA strongly encourages fast food restaurants to provide nutrition information, but I think the agency hasn't had the courage to tackle regulation in this area yet. Given the trends towards eating away from home, such action seems more important than the two measures proposed this month. I don't mind if the FDA waits a bit to see if moral suasion will convince the major chains to be more transparent (a non-regulatory approach might increase the flexibility and reduce the burden for smaller chains and individual restaurants). But the agency shouldn't wait forever. I think it would require a real stick to get Quizno's to move its burro.

The comment period is open for 75 days. Thanks to PHAI for the link.

1 comment:

Clifford said...

I really enjoyed the content on your blog about Crisis Management will be back very frequently! I actually have my own Crisis Management Exposed blog with all kinds of stuff in it. You�re welcome to com by