The Food Label and Package Survey (FLAPS) is an FDA study of processed, packaged food labels in the United States food supply. FLAPS provides the most reasonable and comprehensive overview of label information on food products in the United States today.
The 2000-2001 FLAPS, the 12th survey since 1976, is a component of the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Program, which also provides information about food and nutrient consumption and the nutritional status of the United States population.
Using the FLAPS data, FDA can monitor the food industry's response to its food labeling regulations and support agency policy, regulatory, and food safety decisions. The agency can also use the data to determine the prevalence of nutrition labeling, the accuracy of product serving sizes, the extent of the quantitative labeling of various nutrients (e.g., fatty acids), the prevalence of various health claims (e.g., low fat diets rich in fruits and vegetables and reduced risk of cancer) and nutrient content claims (e.g., "low calorie," "low saturated fat"), the extent of specific product ingredients (e.g., monosodium glutamate), and the prevalence of food safety and other consumer statements.
FDA designed a multistage sampling plan to select a representative sample of food products from the retail packaged food supply for FLAPS. The sampling frame was the Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) 1999 supermarket database. This database includes annual sales dollars from more than 11,000 grocery stores, representing 88% of the retail food sales in the United States. Using sales data from these stores, IRI applies projection factors to arrive at sales information to represent all supermarkets in the United States.
The first stage in the sampling plan was to define 57 product groups, such as baking mixes or condiments, and assign IRI's 488 product types, such as cake mixes or ketchup, to the groups. We then ranked the product types within the product groups according to annual sales dollars. Those product types that accounted for at least 80% of sales within a group were selected for the survey. To allow remaining product types a chance to be selected, we randomly selected 44 additional product types based on the number of product types initially retained and the number of food brands identified within those types. The first stage sample consisted of 238 product types representing 57 product groups.
The second stage of sampling was at the brand level within product type. Under the premise that the largest selling brands within each selected product type would reflect products moving more quickly off the shelves to the consumer and be more representative of the largest volume of products sold, the top three selling brands (leaders) in each product type were selected for the sample. From the remaining brands in each product type, we randomly chose three brands (followers) to represent all brands other than the leaders and generic and private label brands. Three additional brands were randomly selected to serve as replacements in the event that any of the followers could not be located. Restricting the survey to products regulated by FDA, the top selling product within each selected brand was chosen to represent the brand in the survey for a total of six products for most of the product types. The final sample consisted of 1,281 products.
The FLAPS database includes all significant information from product labels, including the ingredient list, nutrition label, claims, as well as food safety and other statements about the product. FDA uses IRI sales data in combination with FLAPS data to provide weighted estimates to represent the marketplace (e.g., the percentage of products sold with nutrition labeling, health or nutrient content claims, food safety statements). This representation is limited in that generic and private label brands, products not regulated by FDA, and brands sold in less than 10% of the stores were excluded from the survey.
Manuscripts describing some of FDA's study results include:
- LeGault L, M Bender Brandt, N McCabe, C Adler, A Brown, and S Brecher. "2000-2001 Food Label and Package Survey: An Update on Prevalence of Nutrition Labeling and Claims on Processed, Packaged Foods." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2004;104:952-958.
- Bender Brandt M, C Spease, G June, and A Brown. "Prevalence of Food Safety, Quality, and Other Consumer Statements on Labels of Processed, Packaged Foods." Food Protection Trends. 2003;23:870-881.
- Brecher S, M Bender, V Wilkening, N McCabe, and E Anderson. "Status of nutrition labeling, health claims, and nutrient content claims for processed foods: 1997 Food Label and Package Survey." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2000;100:1057-1062.
The collected survey data and survey questionnaire from the 2000-2001 FLAPS are available upon request. For further information, contact Mary Brandt at 301-436-1788 or at . The IRI data are proprietary and not available from FDA.