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Advancing Nutrition, Healthy Food Options and Front-of-Package Labeling

Catching Up with Califf Main Image includes photo of Dr. Califf

By: Robert M. Califf, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs

Last month was the one-year anniversary of the White House Conference and National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. The FDA continues to make great progress on our nutrition efforts, which can help to combat the epidemic of diet-related disease. The conference, and the corresponding National Strategy, brought a much needed, renewed focus on the role that diet and nutrition play in our health. I’d like to catch up with you today about important, new developments in this effort. 

Front and center is our work to develop a front-of-package labeling system to quickly communicate and provide context to certain nutrition information. This has the potential to be one of the most momentous changes to food labeling since the Nutrition Facts label. Front-of-package labeling could help consumers, especially those who may be less familiar with nutritional information, identify foods that can help them build a healthy eating pattern. And, generally, multiple studies published in the scientific literature have demonstrated that consumers prefer simple labels. 

The FDA is now conducting consumer research to understand responses to various elements of a front-of-package labeling system. The agency will use the results of this research to inform our next steps, including consideration of approaches to take as part of a planned proposed rule for public comment.  

Front-of-Package Labeling Public Meeting to be Hosted by Reagan-Udall Foundation

Given the potential significance of front-of-package labeling, we are hearing substantial interest from a wide variety of stakeholders, including consumer groups, public health organizations, academia, health care groups and industry. For that reason, I’m excited to share with you that on November 16 the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA will host a public meeting so we can hear directly from stakeholders. More information on the session is available on the Foundation’s web site and interested parties should register to attend.

In addition to our work on front-of-package labeling, the FDA has accomplished much in support of our nutrition priorities since my last update. Many of the following initiatives are highlighted in the National Strategy:

  • Publishing a proposed rule to update the definition of the nutrient content claim “healthy.”   
  • Updating the food code to include recommendations on food donations.  
  • Issuing a draft guidance on Dietary Guidance Statements.  
  • Publishing a proposed rule to permit salt substitutes in standardized foods.  
  • Publishing a Request for Information on food labeling in online grocery platforms.  
  • Hosting an upcoming Virtual Public Meeting and Listening Sessions November 6-8 on Strategies to Reduce Added Sugar Consumption in the U.S. 

The agency continues to be focused on doing what we can to help improve public health through improved nutrition, healthy food options and making it easier to develop healthy habits. Continued findings of a decrease in American life expectancy are rooted in critical habits that form the basis of good nutrition. We are committed to do our part to reverse these trends.

Catch up with you next time.


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