FDA allows more flexibility in food labels

For the fifth time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is allowing flexibility in food labeling.

In the agency’s new guidance, the FDA said that food manufacturers making minor formulation and ingredient changes to their products due to scarcity of ingredients related to COVID-19 do not have to make corresponding changes to their labeling.

“Our goal is to provide regulatory flexibility, where fitting, to help minimize the impact of supply chain disruptions associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic on product availability,” FDA said in the guidance. “For example, we are providing flexibility for manufacturers to use existing labels, without making otherwise required changes, when making minor formula adjustments due to unforeseen shortages or supply chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, food suppliers would have to make labeling changes if a substitution occurred that added a commonly allergenic ingredient; if the substituted ingredient made up more than 2 percent of the weight of the finished product; if a missing ingredient was a defining characteristic of the product; or if the change made an impact on health claims or functionality, FoodDive reported.

However, advocacy groups are concerned that people with food allergies won’t be confident in U.S. food labels.

“We have no objection to temporary flexibilities in this moment, but we view with suspicion the notion that you’d want to continue those after the emergency,” Center for Science in the Public Interest Policy Director Laura MacCleery told The Washington Post. “They say they will take comments and consider an extension beyond the public health emergency.”

FDA is issuing the guidance to provide “temporary and limited flexibilities in food labeling requirements under certain circumstances,” the agency said.

The FDA has issued four other flexibility in food labeling guidance notices since the start of the pandemic.

In late March, it said that – for food manufacturers and restaurants that want to sell packaged food to consumers directly or to other businesses for sale to consumers – the packaged food does not have to have a nutrition facts label.

Photo courtesy of Philip Rozenski/Shutterstock 


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