Reaction to FDA's proposed Nutrition Facts updates

AHPA to FDA: Clarify protein labeling

FDA's current and proposed Nutrition Facts updates, protein content, declared protein, folate, folic acid, added sugar

Although it generally supports the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed Nutrition and Supplement Facts label changes, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) urged the agency to adopt the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) method for evaluating protein content on product labels.

All told, the trade group submitted 40 pages of comments  to the FDA on Aug. 1, in which it urged the agency to reconsider the folate vs. folic acid divide in conventional food and supplements and make adjustments to the "added sugar" proposal; but it also welcomed such proposed changes as continued use of Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for Daily Values (DVs) as well as recordkeeping. 

AHPA urged the FDA to clarify current and proposed provisions for determining and labeling protein content on Nutrition/Supplements Facts panels by adopting DIAAS, a “more accurate” measure of protein quality, instead of continuing to use Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which has come under fire by the scientific community for such shortfalls as its use of fecal rather than ileal digestibility and its invalid scoring pattern (which doesn’t account for conditionally indispensable amino acids, for example).

Insisting that consumers need a consistent basis on which to compare products, AHPA referred to the guidelines for declared protein it issued earlier this year (along with the Council for Responsible Nutrition), which define protein as a “chain of amino acids connected by peptide bonds”, and asserts that declared content in grams thus can’t include non-protein nitrogen sources.

Under this scenario, there are two means by which the appropriate label declaration for protein may be determined: (a) by subtracting the quantity of non-protein nitrogen sources from the total ‘protein’ calculated based on the nitrogen content; (b) by measuring the total amino acids in the food and subtracting the free amino acids present,” AHPA wrote.

Folate vs. folic acid; the nuances of added sugar

AHPA also called out the potential confusion of the FDA’s proposed rule that use of the term "folate" should be reserved for conventional food labeling and that "folic acid" in dietary supplements, noting that a “significant number” of so-called whole food supplements contain naturally-occurring folate, while folic acid is often added to conventional foods.

While it generally supported the proposal to require disclosure of "added sugar" in foods, AHPA recommended numerous adjustments, including not counting moisture or other constituents of certain sweetening ingredients when calculating added sugar to avoid overstating the amounts of added sugars; accounting for sugars added after fermentation commences (not just added sugar content prior to fermentation); and clarification of how to determine the declared quantity of added sugar in products where it may vary. 

AHPA also urged the FDA to update the language to reference the most current edition of AHPA's Herbs of Commerce in its rule on botanical ingredients in dietary supplements, which now includes nearly 1,500 more herbs. (The current rule references the 1992 edition.)

Among the provisions AHPA supported include the proposal to require manufacturers to make and keep written records (such as analyses of databases, formulations or batch records) to verify nutrient content in finished foods for which analytical testing isn’t practical, as well as the proposed increase in prominence of "calories" and "serving size", and positioning the %DV column to the left of the nutrient name. 

It also agreed with the proposal to retain the RDA approach to setting DVs for nutrients to ensure corresponding DVs meet the needs of the “vast majority” of the population. (Estimated Average Requirements, on the other hand, would result in inefficient DVs for nearly half the population.)

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