While the Food and Drug Administration is looking to get public comments about the term "natural" used on food labels, a bill introduced last week would give it — and other currently confusing terms — a definition. House Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduced the Food Label Modernization Act of 2015 simultaneously with Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
According to Consumerist, the bill aims to make several changes to front-of-package labeling, including:
- Creating a standard front-of-product label that "that clearly displays information about calories, serving sizes, and important nutrients"
- Defining the terms "natural" and "healthy" when used on food labels
- Including percentages when labeling claims of a product being "wheat," "whole wheat," "made with wholegrain" or "multigrain" are made.
For the already-existing nutrition information on the back of packaging, the "nutrition panel and ingredients lists would be revised to be more consumer-friendly and realistic." These revisions would include creating reasonable serving sizes based on the amount most people actually consume and distinguishing between sugars and "added sugars." Both of these revisions are similar to the ones that FDA are already considering for a revised nutrition label.
TEST YOUR FOOD SMARTS: 15 fruits you've probably never heard of
In a news release, Blumenthal said, "The measure is a commonsense solution to grocery store shelves that are filled with products labeled with confusing or deceptive dietary information. The Food Labeling Modernization Act mandates critically important information for consumers by updating laws that have been unchanged since the 1990s. Americans deserve to know what is in the food they eat. By empowering consumers with accurate, truthful, and concise information, this legislation will enable them to make healthier choices, and outsmart deceptive pitches and promotions.”
Consumers are increasingly calling out food manufacturers that make misleading or confusing claims on their products with social media campaigns, petitions and lawsuits. There's no question that clarifying terms and clearly informing consumers about what is in their food is needed. The only question is, can Congress or the FDA actually get it done?