At PLMA’s 2019 Private labels Trade Show, Scott Gottlieb the former Food & Drug administration (FDA) commissioner exposed some tips to improve food labeling while he was at the agency.
Gottlieb led the FDA under president Trump from May 2017 to March 2019. He says him and his team aimed to modernize food label claims that could be permitted on labels, and that also make it easier for consumers to understand new and different ingredients in foods today.
Updating Food Label Wording
The former FDA director says “The efforts to try to modernize labeling included avenues to enable new claims on food labels that we thought would be easier for consumers to decipher and would encourage innovation among product manufacturers to develop potentially more healthful food,”
“One was the term ‘healthy’ on food labels. We undertook a regulatory process to try to update the definition of what it meant for food to be healthy. And that regulation is still in process,” Scott Gottlieb explained.
He says that they also reviewed the term ‘natural’, because it has been used often on labels, and also misused a lot.
“We also looked at whether we should be developing a regulation around the term ‘natural.’ That term has been used — and I think misused — a lot. Without a real standard definition from a regulatory standpoint governed by USDA, it means different things in different markets and on different products. We debated on whether we should step into that, and I think that debate is still ongoing.”
Making Nutrition Labels More Understandable
For example food and beverage manufacturers can advertise that a beverage drink has ‘vitamin b6’ in it, as opposed to saying ‘pyridoxal 5 phosphate’ on the drink label, which means the same thing.
“So we were looking at places where we could create opportunities to substitute a different term,” Gottlieb said.
Earlier this year a Harvard Law School research study showed that Household food waste accounts for 40% of all food waste in America. Why? Because food date labels have become very confusing for consumers. The recent food study shows that a standardized date label could have the potential to save 398,000 tons of food every year in America.
The UN (United Nations) says that one-third of all food produced in the world, 1.3 billion tons of food, is wasted and thrown into the trash every year.
Another confusing food label consumer say needs to be updated, is the meat labels for poultry, beef, and seafood. These food labels for seafood, meat and poultry use terms like USDA organic, Raised without antibiotics, no antibiotics ever, antibiotic free, all natural, natural, GMO, Non GMO, gluten, gluten free, and more.
With all these different food label words, its easy to understand why consumers are confused.
Gotlieb says his team had discussions of regulating how many cherries need to be in a cherry pie. He says after thinking about it for a little bit, they realized this was an overstep in regulating food labels, so they took a step back on that approach.
Beverage Labels Make Big Advancements In Recent Years
Meanwhile innovations in food categories like cheese, yogurt, and milk has expanded into new food products like rice, almond, and oat milk.
With the new non dairy, plant based milks like almond milk, peanut milk, and soy milk, There has been giant leaps forward in sales, and technology for the beverage industry in recent years.
The trend is worldwide, and oats, hemp, pecan, quinoa, hazelnut, cashews, and flax milks are setting a global trend for alternative, non dairy, milk drinks to see sales of $10.9 billion in 2019, according to Market Watch.