Consumer News

New Push to Clarify Food Labels

Lawmakers introduce bill to update label standards.


Consumer News

New Push to Clarify Food Labels

UPDATE: The FDA introduced changes to food labels that requires companies to highlight calories and servings which will go into effect in 2018. What follows is our original story on the issue.

If a food calls itself healthy, it probably should be healthy. If a food says it’s natural, you’d want to know whether it had any unnatural ingredients. If a food lists a certain carb count, it should list all the sugar it contains.

All this sounds like common sense, right? But in order for it to happen, consumer advocates say the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act has to be updated. Thursday, three Democratic lawmakers introduced a new bill that would require just that.

The bill — introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both of Connecticut, and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, of New Jersey — would require federal regulators to issue a standard definition of the term “natural,” an updated definition of the term “healthy,” and more detailed disclosures on labels about sugars and caffeine.

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act food labeling requirements were last updated in 1990, with some sections not changed since 1938. Advocates say the requirements are way overdue for changes that would give consumers more information about what they are buying.

“Grocery stores throughout the country are filled with products that bear labels with deceptive dietary information,” said Blumenthal. “The Food Labeling Modernization Act updates laws that haven’t been touched since 1930s, ensuring that consumers will know what they’re eating and parents will know what they’re feeding their kids.”

A key provision of the bill would require that the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services establish a single front of label standard. It would further require disclosure of the amount of caffeine in a product if it exceeds 10 milligrams, the amount of sugar in a food that is not naturally occurring so a full carb count can be made, and the amount of whole grain as a percentage of total grain in the product.

The bill would not apply to dietary supplements.

“This bill would give consumers confidence that the claims they read on food labels–like ‘healthy,’ ‘natural,’ ‘made with whole grains,’ and so on — are grounded in reality,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of Science for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

See CSPI’s proposed design for updated food labels by clicking here. Read more here about food labels.

This story was updated on 7/29/16. 

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