F.D.A. comments on front-of-package symbols

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration earlier this month issued a "Dear Manufacturer" letter regarding front-of-package symbols in which it reminded food manufacturers and distributors about current regulatory schemes and requirements with regard to nutrition claims. The announcement comes a little more than a month after several food companies agreed to use a uniform front-of-pack nutrition labeling system called the Smart Choices Program on products beginning next year.

The F.D.A. said it has been following the emergence of front-of-package symbols in the marketplace and understands they are intended to assist consumer choice by providing simplified information on the nutritional attributes of food. With that in mind, the administration in its letter reminded food manufacturers of the need to consider the wording of any potential claims or symbols.

"Accurate food labeling information can assist consumers in making healthy nutritional choices," wrote Barbara O. Schneeman, Ph.D., director of the Office of Nutrition, Labeling and Dietary Supplements in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the F.D.A., in the December letter. "F.D.A. recommends that manufacturers and distributors of food products that include front-of-package symbols ensure that these claims are consistent with F.D.A.’s current laws and regulations. We will notify manufacturers when we see any front-of-package symbols that are explicit or implied nutrient content claims that are not consistent with current requirements or where such front-of-package symbols are used in a manner that is false or misleading."

The F.D.A. is encouraging anyone with comments on the guidance to submit them via www.regulations.gov.

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