The origins and evolution of nutrition labeling (2023)

oNutrition information panel, which began appearing on food packaging in 1994, is one of the most recognizable graphics in the world, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

"You see it in food. You see it in T-shirts. You see it in fashion. It's become an icon of our era," FDA historian Suzanne Junod told Food Dive.

While the format of the chart is fairly standard, it has been deliberately designed to be flexible enough to allow regulators to adapt to the changing landscape of nutritional knowledge, as warranted by ongoing scientific discoveries.

In the recently published book "Definition of nutritional standards: theory, policies, practices", Junod writes, "the modern label on US food packaging has constantly evolved throughout the 20th century, and its content and format are regularly revised to reflect and apply new knowledge in the fields of medical science. , nutritional and regulatory".

Surprisingly few changes have been made to the label over the past quarter century, even though it is designed to easily incorporate new information based on scientific and nutritional advances. The only revision of any substance to date, despite future changes regarding added sugars and micronutrients, is the addition of information on trans fats in 2006.

"There have been some big changes, but in a way things change slowly."Public Interest Science Centerco-founder and senior scientistmiguel jacobsonGastronomic immersion.

The need and drive for nutrition information on food and the roots of mandatory labeling have a history going back more than a century.

The origins and evolution of nutrition labeling (1)

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The Progressive Era marks the need for more labeling

oPure Food and Drug Act of 1906it was the first major consumer protection law enacted by Congress in the 20th century and led to the creation of the FDA. It was essentially a "truth in labeling" law designed to ban adulterated or misbranded products and raise standards in the food and drug industries.

"The focus in the Progressive Era [1890-1920] was on preventing consumer fraud: preventing food manufacturers from substituting grit for sugar, filtering, or otherwise eradicating branding from a product by grinding pepper husks and mixing them with pepper, for example," said Junod Diving Alimentar. "The idea was to protect the consumer from fraudulent and dangerous ingredients."

Packaged foods were a new phenomenon at the turn of the 20th century. Prior to this, most food was traded and purchased in bulk, not packaged, boxed, or canned. But select packaged products were entering the scene, priced at a premium due to their convenience and ease of handling.

Competitors began to undersell the original packaged products in a practice known as "lightweight packaging," that is, putting less food in packages but making it appear to contain the same amount and then selling it at a higher price. low. price. These types of deceptive practices have created a need for lawmakers to intervene.

Consequently, the US became the first country to enact mandatory food labeling in 1913, when it passed the Gould Net Weight Amendment to the Act of 1906. The Gould Amendment required that all food be packaged had the "quantity of its contents clearly and conspicuously marked on the outside of the package in terms of weight, measurement, or numerical count."

"Changes in manufacturing processes, purchasing patterns, consumer demands and retail structures have been significant in making evident the need to identify and reduce patterns of container fraud and, in many ways, the Amendment to Gould's Net Wt has come full circle for consumer protection begun under the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906," Junod's book says.

The origins and evolution of nutrition labeling (2)

Artificial additives, need for dietary standards lead to 1938 law

It took another two decades before major changes to the Gould Amendment were passed. EITHERFood, Drug and Cosmetic Lawit went into effect in 1938, requiring any artificial flavoring, coloring, or chemical preservative, all of which had previously been concerns, to be listed on the product label.

As part of the 1938 act, the FDA also began issuing dietary standards "to promote honesty and fair trade in the interest of consumers," as the law states.

“That's when we see the consumer really start to take center stage in the food regulatory landscape after Act '38 came into play,” Junod said.

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Many scientific changes and discoveries were occurring at this time. After World War I, it became clear that food fortification was important in eliminating some nutrition-related diseases, such as beriberi caused by vitamin B1 deficiency and scurvy due to lack of vitamin C.

"We didn't know much about vitamins until the 1920s. Many of them weren't even discovered until then. And no one was really sure what role they played in human nutrition. But scientific studies started. It was around the time [the FDA] began to get into the nutrition business and scientifically looked at nutrients and their role in the diet."

The origins and evolution of nutrition labeling (3)

"We didn't know much about vitamins until the 1920s. Many of them weren't even discovered until then. And no one was really sure what role they play in human nutrition," Junod said. "But the scientific studies started. That's when [the FDA] started getting into the nutrition business and scientifically looking at nutrients and their role in the diet."

But another war interrupted efforts to set national standards.

"After World War II, it became even more apparent that certain nutrients needed to be in the diet," Junod said. The eating pattern process has begun in earnest.

In 1940, hearings on standards of identity for flour led the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences to recommend, and later to accept the FDA, a standard for enriched flour that established "appropriate levels" of fortification with vitamins and minerals.

This formula approach was later adopted for white bread as well. As a standardized food, the nutritional components did not need to be listed on the label because consumers could look for them when needed. Only optional ingredients should be listed.

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It would be a few decades before nutrition labels returned to the spotlight.

The origins and evolution of nutrition labeling (4)

FDA begins nutrition labeling activities in the 1970s

oWhite House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Healthin 1969 it marked the end of the FDA's emphasis on controlling the food supply through strict regulations.

"From this conference came a recommendation that the FDA spend less time on the composition of foods and more time on increasing their nutritional value, educating people about their nutritional value and harnessing the power of technology to improve the nutritional value of foods." food," he said. Junod said.

The FDA began to adopt a system that focused on giving the consumer as much information as possible so they could make informed decisions. In fact, the FDA has begun to encourage food manufacturers to add complete ingredient lists to food labels and has changed the standards forforce the inclusion of its ingredients on food labels.

In 1973, the FDA published the first regulations requiring nutrition labeling of certain foods. These included foods with added nutrients and those for which a nutrition claim was made on the label or in advertising.

"If a product claimed to be high in protein, the FDA required the manufacturer to provide a minimum of nutritional information. Back then, it wasn't usually presented in a way that was attention-grabbing. It was in fine print that was hard to read. But this represented the first 'real' nutrition labelling."

The origins and evolution of nutrition labeling (5)

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miguel jacobson

Co-Founder and Principal Scientist, Center for Science in the Public Interest

"If a product claims to be high in protein, for example, the FDA would require the manufacturer to provide a minimum of nutritional information," Jacobson said. "But at the time it wasn't usually presented in a way that attracted attention. It was in small print and hard to read. But this represented the first 'real' nutrition labeling. And progress was slow. In the early '70s, a fraction A negligible number of people worried about diet and health.

"Then, in 1977, a Senate committee presented a report called Dietary Goals for the United States and Legumes, Whole Grains, Beans, and Health Foods," Jacobson said.

It was also at this time that the Department of Agriculture was busy developing the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which became a national nutrition policy. It was also a landmark point, Jacobson noted, with the same conclusions as the Senate committee report: eat more fruits and vegetables and less salt and sugar.

The origins and evolution of nutrition labeling (6)

Tipping Point: Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990

"In the 1980s, CSPI began filing complaints and petitions with the FDA because we noticed a proliferation of misleading claims: health claims and nutrition claims. That and there was an increasing level of interest emerging in things like sodium, sugar and fat, Jacobson said.

Despite the efforts of CSPI and other consumer advocates and health authorities, it was not until the approval of theNutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990that mandatory nutrition labeling, and the introduction of the nutrition facts panel we know today, was expanded to virtually all FDA-regulated foods.

The renowned Nutrition Facts chart "was always intended to be a flexible way to convey information to consumers. It was never expected to be set in stone," Junod said. "It has always been designed to reflect nutritional science and consumer interest in any new knowledge we learn about nutrition.

"It's amazing how much was spent on graphic design," he continued. "We used an outside company that knew a lot about branding. We did a lot of focus groups and test panels, all kinds of research. It was actually quite impressive. The graphic, its design and look, was very well researched."

The next few years will see theNutrition facts panel undergoes another significant overhaul🇧🇷 In the new version of the label, the FDA will require specific lists of added sugars, as well as some essential vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron, on all food labels. The label will be on all products by 2020.

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Junod said that making changes to the law and the label is really important to help consumers make informed and wise decisions. The FDA is currently revamping the serving sizes because people eat differently.

"We now have very in-depth nutritional research based on scientific samples," Junod said. "So things like serving size have changed dramatically over time and we have to maintain accuracy in food labeling — what we know in terms of nutrition and what people are actually eating."


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