One of the most prominent “hot buttons” currently being pushed in the U.S. food industry is that of nutritional labeling, and OnionBusiness has been asked to address various and contradictory overarching regulations.
We wonder: Who’s on first? What can – and can’t – food providers say on their labels regarding nutrition?
American farmers and those who distribute the food crops that are grown in this country are directly affected by regulations put in place by the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to be headed up soon by Robert Califf, former professor of cardiology at Duke University School of Medicine and recently appointed deputy commissioner of the administration.
In its missive on food guidance regulations, available for reference at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064916.htm, the federal administration states, “Nutrient content claims must be based on reference amounts customarily consumed (RACCs) and not on the serving sizes of products, which are derived from the RACCs.”
Translated, if a product label shows a serving size of 160 g, or 5.6 ounces, and it does not gibe with the RACC, companies can’t use it to make health claims such as “excellent source of vitamin C” because the percentage is lower on the RACC, which drops it out of the excellent category.
Specifically for onions, the FDA’s accepted packaging label serving size actually is 160 g. The USDA has a separate label for serving size, which is 85 g. That cuts the nutritional percentage by half.
However, and this is a big however, there is no reference to RACC values in the FDA’s Guidelines for Voluntary Nutrition Labeling for Raw Fruits and Vegetables.
Whose guidelines are to be followed? It depends on whether or not a USDA Marketing Order covers the commodity in question, and if that’s the case, promotional organizations are likely to receive more oversight and guidance than individual companies.
Clear as mud?
In the Marketing Communications Guidelines document dated March 2014, guidelines were provided for “Fruit and Vegetable Prog, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) staff and marketing order committees and research and promotion boards relating to the review and approval of marketing communications. Marketing communications include research, educational, and promotional materials, including advertisements (print ads, web banner ads, mailed ads, television and radio spots, and advertorials), public relations, consumer information, social media content (Websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc.) press releases, articles for magazines, and industry newsletters.”
On page 6 of 20, the following key points are made: “Nutrient-content claims must be accurate and supported by data from the USDA Nutrient Database or the FDA’s Guidelines for Voluntary Nutrition Labeling of Raw Fruits and Vegetables… General Guide for % Daily Value of nutrients in one serving of food: ‘good source’ means 10-19% Daily Value per serving; ‘high’ means food contains 20% or more Daily Value per serving; and ‘low’ means a food contains 5% or less Daily Value per serving.”
The document further states, “USDA will not approve communications that include: Any implied health benefits based on the antioxidant levels; or Product comparisons using ORAC or similar values since such would imply a benefit based on the antioxidant capacity level.”
Footnote: “For marketing communication items currently being used that imply benefits based on the antioxidant levels, marketing specialists will work with Boards and Committees to discontinue use of such items and to update website content.”
There is also the matter of school nutrition requirements, which will be covered in an upcoming article.
Stay tuned. In the meantime, weigh in and make your comments on THE BULB.