Labeling changes recommended

In a mid-December 2003 report commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Health Canada, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for redoing the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels.

IOM called on the regulatory agencies to reduce the recommended daily allowances of cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats to as low a level as possible and to set one daily limit for saturated fats and trans fats.

Providing more information on added and naturally occurring sugars should be given “urgent consideration,” IOM said. In a major change, IOM recommended that daily values (DVs) of vitamins and minerals be based on the average needs of the average person rather than covering nearly everyone as they do now. Many groups of people need much more than the DVs based on average needs, complained the Center for Science in the Public Interest, adding that such a recommendation indicates a lack of interest in the public’s health.

The National Food Processors Assn. said the report would be useful to the agencies as they consider label changes. NFPA noted that the IOM said more research is needed on how consumers actually use the Nutrition Facts panel. An FDA spokesperson said it would take three years at the earliest for any new labels to appear.

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