Food Labeling Modernization Act Introduced in Congress
The Food Labeling Modernization Act (FLMA) was introduced to both Houses of Congress on August 3, 2021. If passed, the 35-page legislation co-sponsored by Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will update information on the food label. “This bill will bring much-needed clarity to food labels so Americans can make informed, healthy decisions for themselves and their families,” Senator Blumenthal said. (House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Press Release, August 4, 2021). While food labels often play a crucial role in promoting healthy eating habits, the legislation claims that today’s food labeling standards do not provide adequate information that consumers need to make healthy lifestyle decisions. The FLMA’s largest initiative calls upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a standard front-of package labeling system for all FDA-regulated food products. Similar systems are in use in various countries throughout the world, which have been credited with prompting the food industry to decrease levels of sugar, sodium, and saturated fat in foods.
Although the FLMA was first introduced in 2018, the shift towards online grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for nutrition information requirements to be available at the online point of sale. The current version of the FLMA requires nutrition information including Nutrition Facts, ingredients, and allergen information to be displayed for online grocery items. The updated version of the FLMA also encourages the use of substitutions for overconsumed nutrients, such as sodium. By amending the “standards of identity,” which currently require minimum levels of salt in some food products, to allow for the use of salt substitutes this could lead to lower rates of heart disease, hypertension, and blood pressure.
Additionally, the FLMA aims at eliminating marketing practices that mislead consumers. It requires products making claims about healthy ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to list the amount per serving or include percentages of these ingredients. It also creates uniform definitions of popular marketing terms like “natural,” and will provide important information to consumers regarding caffeine content and gluten-containing grains.