The Food Label and Package Survey (FLAPS) is an FDA study of processed, packaged food labels in the United States (U.S.) food supply. FLAPS provides the most comprehensive overview of label information on food products in the U.S. today. The 2006-2007 FLAPS is the 13th survey since the project began in 1976-1978.
FDA uses the FLAPS data to monitor the food industry's response to its food labeling regulations and to support agency policy, regulatory, and food safety decisions. For example, FDA determines the extent of the quantitative labeling of nutrients (e.g., trans fat, vitamin D) and product ingredients (e.g., wheat gluten, annatto), the prevalence of various health claims (e.g., “Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors.”) and nutrient content claims (e.g., “low saturated fat,” “high in vitamin C”), and the frequency of allergen information and food safety statements (e.g., “keep refrigerated”).
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 2005 ACNielsen Strategic Planner market database of U.S. food stores. This database includes annual sales dollars collected from food sales scanner data from more than 3,000 grocery stores with over $2 million in sales from nearly all chains and a representation of independent stores across the U.S. The database generalizes by ratio estimation to 80 to 85% (± 3%) of the retail food sales in the U.S.
Only foods regulated by FDA, including private label brands, were included in the sampling frame. FDA eliminated dietary supplements, all brands described as “unspecified,” and food products regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (meat, poultry, and egg products). Only products sold in at least 2% of all commodity volume in the retail market were considered because of the difficulty in locating low-selling items. This representation of the food market is thus limited by the exclusion of some products.
The products were then stratified in the sampling frame into 57 FDA-determined product groups, and the number of sampled products in each product group was set proportional to the sales dollars of each of the product groups. The products were selected using a stratified two-stage design with selection probabilities proportional to nationally-estimated sales dollars. The first stage of sampling was at the brand level within each product group; brands were selected without replacement with probability proportional to brand sales dollars. At the second stage of sampling, one item was selected within each brand selected in the first stage with probability proportional to item sales dollars.
Products were purchased within the U.S. The final 2006-2007 FLAPS database consists of 1,227 products, providing a response rate of 94.5%. For those product groups in which not all items were located, nonresponse adjustments were made to the sampling weights, with the nonresponse factors calculated at the product group level. The ACNielsen sales data are combined with the 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).
Manuscripts describing some of FDA's study results include:
- Brandt M, J Moss, K Ellwood, M Ferguson, and A Asefa. 2010. Tracking Label Claims. Food Technology. 64(1):34-40.
- Brandt M, J Moss, and M Ferguson. 2009. The 2006-2007 Food Label and Package Survey (FLAPS): Nutrition Labeling, Trans Fat Labeling. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 22S:S74-77.
- LeGault L, M Bender Brandt, N McCabe, C Adler, A Brown, and S Brecher. 2004. 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. 104:952-958.
- Bender Brandt M, C Spease, G June, and A Brown. 2003. Prevalence of Food Safety, Quality, and Other Consumer Statements on Labels of Processed, Packaged Foods. Food Protection Trends. 23:870-881.
- Brecher S, M Bender, V Wilkening, N McCabe, and E Anderson. 2000. 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. 100:1057-1062.
The 2006-2007 FLAPS survey questionnaire is available upon request. For further information, contact Tomoko Shimakawa at 240-402-1461 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The ACNielsen data are proprietary and not available from FDA.