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Navigating the nuances of nutrition labeling

June 28, 2017

Nutrition labeling Navigating nutrition labeling regulations for packaged goods and for foodservice is a complex proposition, but presenters in a Tuesday afternoon session did their best to help simplify it. The final rule for updated Nutrition Facts Panel regulations was announced in May 2016, and the compliance date was set for 2018. Recently, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the compliance date would be extended beyond that timeframe in response to input from industry and consumers.

The deadline may have been extended, but food companies should not underestimate the time required to revise nutrition labeling in order to be in compliance, said consultant Debra Topham in a session titled “Navigating the New Nutrition Labeling Regulations for Various Segments of the Food Industry.” It’s a serious mistake to believe that label changes can be accomplished quickly and easily, said Topham. “I’m here to tell you that that is a myth.

“This is not simply putting lipstick on a pig,” she continued. “You will not find it easy to take the old numbers and slap them into a new format.” For one thing, she observed, not all labeling software is created equal, so it’s important to exercise caution in this area. “Not all software is generating [data] that is compliant with the new Nutrition Facts format.”

Presenter Sarah Hendren, nutrition and quality assurance manager for the Culver’s restaurant chain, covered labeling from a foodservice perspective. Although the FDA extended the deadline for enforcement of menu labeling regulations originally slated for May 2017 until May 2018, most large chains have already implemented the changes, Hendren said.

Hendren offered a series of tips on ways in which suppliers to the foodservice industry can support their restaurant clients’ efforts to meet nutrition labeling requirements. They included the following: communicate formulation changes to restaurant chains; when providing nutrition information, supply unrounded nutrition values for 100 gram amounts; and ensure that nutritional data is properly calculated and up-to-date. “Software systems don’t always present you with accurate information,” Hendren said. She added that, “It’s really helpful to know if the nutritionals were calculated with software versus with chemical analysis.”