Every representation about food has the potential for misbranding claims in civil or criminal court. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s food labeling regulations are just another legal matter waiting for their day in court.
The Labeling Craze of 2014
In 2014 we were presented with the latest labeling requirements complete with revised demands related to nutritional content. (See: “Will Clearer Food Labels Make For Healthier Choices?”) Compliance with labeling regulations is necessary because non-compliance could result not just in serious injury to consumers but also significant civil liabilities for producers. The most dangerous risk to a producer may actually come from the individual who does read the nutrition label. According to Food Safety Magazine, studies show that less than 50% of consumers regularly read nutrition labels on prepackaged food. And the number of consumers who will ask to see nutrition information in restaurants will likely be even lower. However, those who read the information are doing so for a reason. The diabetic consumer could end up in a diabetic shock if the labeling information is inaccurate. A consumer who relies on accurate sodium content may end up in cardiac arrest. Inaccuracies on nutritional information could be fatal for consumers with pre-existing conditions. The labeling craze of 2014 was focused on the nation’s nutrition with the hope of addressing obesity. Lobbyists, lawmakers, and more believe that providing more complete labeling would give consumers a better understanding of how to be healthier.
We saw big changes including:
Changes to Restaurant Food Labeling
Originally the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 specifically exempted foods sold in restaurant-type settings. Fast-forward twenty years and 2010’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act set out to provide consumers access to certain nutritional information when purchasing food in restaurants. This was just finalized on Dec. 1, 2014. This additional nutritional information requirement very closely resembles the information and format required for Nutrition Fact Labels contained on prepackaged foods.
What’s Next for Nutritional Labeling in 2015
The FDA claims the basis of both proposals is to present the information in such a way as to maximize the attention and understanding of the consumer, with the hopes the consumer will make healthier eating choices. Still the question remains: Will new nutritional information result in improved food choices or will it simply overwhelm the consumer?
Regardless of the answer, changes to nutritional labeling are here to stay and the impact on producers is significant, as these regulations are strict and non-compliance could have negative ramifications on many levels.