FOR YOUR INFORMATION...........................FEBRUARY 25, 1992
FTC STAFF PROVIDES FDA, USDA WITH COMMENTS ON FOOD LABEL REFORM MEASURES
Staff members of the Federal Trade Commission provided the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture with separate but similar comments on food label reform proposals today.
The FTC staff offered recommendations in response to requests for comments from the FDA and USDA concerning rules they have pro- posed. The FDA's proposed rules would implement the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA), which governs the nutri- tional labeling of food products. The USDA's proposed rules would govern nutritional labeling of meat and poultry products and would parallel, to the extent possible, the FDA proposals. Both sets of proposals were published in the Federal Register on Nov. 27, 1991.
One premise of the FTC staff comments is that consumers can improve their diets either by switching to the healthiest foods available or by switching to more nutritious versions of the foods they are currently eating. Another premise is that truthful nutri- ent claims on the front label may help alert consumers to more healthful products. The FTC staff comment examines how the regula- tions will help consumers looking to improve their diets in either way to find better products, and how this could affect innovation in food markets.
Much of what the FDA and USDA have proposed would provide valuable nutrition information to consumers, the FTC staff said. The staff added, however, that the proposed regulations also may have some unintended, undesirable effects. According to the comments, the regulations would eliminate many factual claims that could help consumers make better food choices and increase produ- cers' incentives to improve the nutritional composition of their products.
For example, the proposed regulations would prohibit truthful, quantitative claims about nutrient content (for example, "100
- more - FDA/USDA Food Labeling--02/25/92)
calories per serving"), as well as brand-to-brand comparisons (for example, "Our cola has 25 percent fewer calories than Coke or Pepsi"). In addition, the FTC staff noted, many foods that can improve diets, including foods that dietary authorities recommend to consumers, could not meet the requirements for health claims, and thus, labels for these products could not explain the health reasons for considering them. The FTC staff suggested that the FDA reconsider these aspects of the proposed regulations, and offered some suggestions to the FDA and USDA to enhance the effectiveness of the proposals.
These comments represent the views of staff members of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection and Bureau of Economics, and are not necessarily the views of the Commission or of any individual Commissioner.
Copies of both sets of comments are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY 202-326- 2502.
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MEDIA CONTACT: Bonnie Jansen, Office of Public Affairs 202-326-2161
STAFF CONTACT: Anne Maher, Bureau of Consumer Protection 202-326-2987
(V920001 and V920008) (FDAFOOD)