“Everybody has to make format changes even if they are not changing their formulas and they don’t have any problem ingredients,” said Elizabeth Campbell, an independent advisor for labeling and claims at EAS Consulting Group, LLC.
While those format change are labor intensive, Campbell said at the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Science Forum in Washington, DC, April 20, that “the real problems though, are those products that have dietary fiber in them or have added sugars in them,” because companies will have to test, document and in some cases have FDA approval to prove the amounts of those nutrients.
“The analytical methodology cannot distinguish between inherent sugar and added sugar and between the various isolated fibers, some of which are approved and some are not. The analytical methodology totals, but can’t separate and so there would have to be record keeping” to support what is on the Nutrition Facts label, she explained.
Fiber claims have an added layer of difficulty because FDA must read documentation supporting the physiological benefit of the fiber before it can be listed as part of the total for dietary fiber, she added.
Nutrient content claims will need to be reviewed
Another major, but often overlooked, challenge associated with the new Nutrition Facts label will be reevaluating marketing claims based on the amount of certain nutrients in a product, such as claims that a product is a good or excellent source of an ingredient.
“FDA has not changed the claims rules, so … the company is going to have to evaluate all the claims it has been making because the reference amounts change and the serving sizes are changing. The calculations are going to be different. So you really need to take a look at that even though FDA rightnow is ignoring it,” Campbell said.
Working against a potentially moving target
With so many factors at play and such a tight compliance deadline, industry stakeholders are lobbying hard for an extension, which FDA officials and the likely new agency commissioner have indicated they are considering.
But Campbell warns that companies need to “be conservative in approaching this,” because they don’t know if or when the deadline will be pushed back or for how long. Companies are better off working towards the current deadline so that they are in compliance if it isn’t delayed, but if it is then they will be “home free and fine,” she said.
With that in mind, Campbell recommends companies prioritize changing the labels that are easiest and most important to the brand.
“If you are a company with a lot of different kinds of products, go ahead and work on the ones that don’t have fiber … and start working on the added-sugars,” and the products that don’t need to be reformulated or that make nutrient content claims, she said.
She emphasized the sooner companies start, the better off they will be as the onslaught of new labels likely will back up printers.
“You need to get as many in line right now as you can and get started if you are not already started,” she said.