A few years back, I wrote an article about the nutrition label update, the requirements and regulation changes that were in the works, and how they would be impacting our industry in years to come. Some time later, in May 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the new Nutrition and Supplement Facts Label was finalized with an expected compliance date of July 26, 2018, plus an additional year to comply for manufacturers with annual food sales of less than $10 million.
So here we are, with about one year remaining to meet the compliance date for the nutrition label update. I imagine a survey of prepress departments and trade shops would indicate there have been a few that have begun the process to update their packaging, but I suspect there is a significant majority who have delayed this process and will be scrambling to get all their SKUs updated in time.
In fact, preparing for the nutritional label update has been a bit of a hot topic this year. This change is going to impact printers, suppliers and brand owners. As we near the deadline, the rush for last-minute changes is going to have an effect extending beyond our initial expectations.
The good news is that just last month, on June 13, the FDA announced there will be an extension on the former deadline of July 26, 2018. This delay was considered based on feedback from the industry and consumer groups. More specific details will be provided at a later time.
Earlier this year, in April, FLEXO Magazine hosted a Tech Talk webinar titled, “The FDA Label Law Reform: Are You Aware of the Impact?” led by sgsco and Prime Label Consultants. They provided an excellent overview of what these changes entail, and the potential impact to our design and production cycles. The underlying message was to take this seriously, assemble a team (with the CPC, designer, prepress provider and printer) to assess affected SKUs and get this ball rolling as soon as you can.
The New & Improved Nutritional Panel
For those of us in printing—especially package printing—understanding and keeping up with government labeling regulations can be tedious and frustrating; however, there has been very little change in regard to the nutritional information since its inception.
It was 1990 when the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was passed. This was the FDA’s first step to standardize health claims to include ingredient information, serving sizes and terminology indicating a product as “low fat” or similar. In 1993, the first version of a nutritional table with per serving information was finalized and since then, there has been little change, except for the addition of trans fat information in 2006.
Fast forward to May 20, 2016. After a few years of deliberation, the FDA finally released the new and improved nutritional table format aimed at making it easier to read and understand key information considered critical to our health (see Figure 1). The key focus was to address the steady rise in obesity and heart disease.
Now there are a couple ways to approach the nutrition label update: Look at it as an opportunity to better appeal to our consumer target, or reluctantly make the minimal effort to get the job done.
Regardless, we are no longer at a point where it can be put off. The nutrition label update is a governmental requirement that cannot be ignored and it will likely cause bottlenecks in the supply chain. In fact, this disruption will effectively ripple out and impact the supply chain for other products that don’t even have nutritional panels.
So, if you are thinking you have plenty of time, I caution you to reconsider the urgency of this effort and bring a team together to begin evaluating your options. In some cases, the change may be a simple upgrade of the panel, a quick switch that has minimal impact on other design elements and colors in the job. The key is understanding the footprint for the new panel is slightly different, and so the change may have an unexpected influence which could differ among flavors of a product. In other cases, especially if your product requires a dual-column panel, it may force some significant changes to design and layout.