Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) joined with consumer advocates to announce their new comprehensive legislation, the "Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013," which attempts to cut down on confusing and misleading information that consumers encounter on food packages today.
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.
The Food Labeling Modernization Act looks at food labeling reform in a comprehensive manner, addressing front-of-package labeling, misleading health claims, and requiring updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel and the ingredient list.
"Childhood obesity has nearly tripled in the past 30 years and is a huge public health problem in this country that puts millions of American children at risk. Healthy eating is critical to combating this epidemic. That is why it is so important that when families make the effort to eat nutritious, healthy food, the labels on food products help them make the right choices--not confuse or mislead them," said Congressman Pallone, Senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. "The Food Labeling Modernization Act is a comprehensive approach to updating labels so that consumers have the clear, consistent information they need when making important decisions about the food they buy and give to their families."
"Grocery stores throughout the country are filled with products that bear labels with deceptive dietary information," Senator Blumenthal said. "The Food Labeling Modernization Act updates laws that haven't been touched since 1930s, ensuring that consumers will know what they're eating and parents will know what they're feeding their kids."
"The Food Labeling Modernization Act will give food labeling requirements in America a major, common-sense, and long-overdue overhaul by making sure food labels are a clear, accurate, and fair representation of the product. I proudly support this common-sense bill that simply provides more information to American families. By doing that, this food labeling act could have a significant impact on fighting obesity," said Congresswoman DeLauro.
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 Panel.
"This bill would give consumers confidence that the claims they read on food labels-- like 'healthy,' 'natural,' 'made with whole grains,' and so on--are grounded in reality," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Simply by making ingredient lists legible, this bill would be a historic advance for consumers. Anyone who shops or eats should support the efforts of Senator Blumenthal and Representatives Pallone and DeLauro to end the chaos on food labels."
Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union said, "Many of the labels on food currently don't give consumers all the information they need to make informed decisions about the food they buy. This legislation would take a big, common sense step forward in improving the nutrition information available about the food that consumers are putting in their cart and on their kitchen tables."