[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Food Labeling Modernization Act to minimize confusing and misleading information that consumers encounter on food packages. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives last week by U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
“Consumers deserve clear, accurate information about the food they eat – but instead of giving consumers clarity, current labels are a maze of confusion,” said Blumenthal. “The Food Labeling Modernization Act empowers consumers with accurate, truthful, and concise information, giving them the tools they need to make healthier choices and outsmart deceptive pitches and promotions.”
“Reading a food label shouldn’t be like reading a calculus textbook. We need a uniform and truthful system that ensures that the labels on food products are easy to read and that help consumers make the right choices, without being confused or misled,” Markey said. “The Food Labeling Modernization Act will help bring our labeling standards into the 21st century and will help ensure consumers receive fair, honest and easy to understand information about their food choices.”
“People have the right to clear information about what’s in the food they eat,” said Whitehouse. “The Food Labeling Modernization Act will help families make more informed dietary decisions, whether they are trying to find healthier foods or avoid potentially dangerous allergens.”
The Food Labeling Modernization Act approaches food labeling reform in a comprehensive manner, addressing front-of-package labeling, misleading health claims, and requiring updates to the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredient list. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed updating the Nutrition Facts label to require information about ‘added sugars,’ updated serving size requirements, and make calorie and serving size information more prominent.
Last week, FDA announced that the agency will pursue a new Nutrition Innovation Strategy, which includes a number of provisions from this bill.
“Food labels play an important role in our nation’s battle against obesity and diet-related disease,” said Pallone, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Unfortunately, federal labeling rules have not kept up with the changing marketplace, and food labels do not always provide the clear information that today’s consumers need to evaluate products and make healthy choices. The Food Labeling Modernization Act will address this problem by taking a comprehensive approach to ensuring consistency and clarity on all food labels, as well as setting reliable standards for what ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ actually mean.”
“The Food Labeling Modernization Act will give food labeling requirements an important and long-overdue overhaul,” said DeLauro. “Food labels should give a clear, accurate, and fair representation of the product, and that is just not the case right now. This common-sense bill would provide more information to consumers—information that is vital as people make choices about what food to buy for their families.”
Nutrition information, ingredient lists, and health-related claims on food labels can play an important role in the battle against obesity and diet-related disease, which are responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year, as well as increased health care costs. Food labeling requirements, however, are in need of a major overhaul. Major food labeling provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act have not been updated since 1990 and in some cases have not been changed since 1938. As a result, labels do not provide the information that today’s consumer needs to evaluate and compare products in order to make healthy choices.
In an effort to help consumers select healthy products, the Food Labeling Modernization Act’s signature initiative will direct the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to establish a single, standard front of package nutrition labeling system in a timely manner for all food products required to bear nutrition labeling.
The bill will also strengthen current law to target trends in marketing that confuse or mislead consumers when they are attempting to compare food products. Specifically, the legislation will require new guidelines for the use of the words “healthy” or “made with whole grain.” The bill also requires the percent daily values for calories and sugar, as well as the amount of sugar that is not naturally occurring, be listed on the Nutrition Facts label.
“The Food Labeling Modernization Act is an idea whose time has come,” said CSPI Policy Director Laura MacCleery. “Consumers want to select healthier foods, but much of what they are seeing on food packaging today is useless noise. This bill will cut through the misleading hype to provide, clear, useful information on food labels, making healthy choices easier for American families.”
“Food labeling should be simple, clear, and meaningful for consumers, and shouldn’t mislead them. Yet, all too often, consumers face confusing, complex labels when grocery shopping—making it more difficult for them to quickly compare products and know if the food they might want to buy really is healthy,” said William Wallace, Senior Policy Analyst for Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “Consumers should be able to quickly compare food packages and make informed, healthy choices for themselves and their families. We urge all members of Congress to support the Food Labeling Modernization Act and pass these strong reforms to nutrition labeling rules.”