F.D.A. proposes study on whole grain labeling

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has submitted a collection of information to the Office for Management and Budget Review regarding a potential study on consumer responses to whole grain labeling statements on food packages.

In a Feb. 27 filing in the Federal Register, the F.D.A. said it is important for policy makers to gain a better understanding of how consumers interpret whole grain statements, adding that the majority of existing studies focus on whole grain intake or the relationship between whole grain and disease prevention.

The F.D.A. said it plans to conduct a survey of 2,700 individuals, with each completing a 15-minute questionnaire. The study would examine five key issues:

Consumer judgments about a food product, including its nutritional attributes, overall healthiness, and health benefits;

Consumer judgments about a labeling statement in terms of its credibility, helpfulness, and other attributes;

Consumer interpretations of different terms and statements, such as “Made with Whole Grain,” “Multi-grain” and “100% Whole Wheat”;

Consumer extrapolation of whole grain statements beyond the scope of the statements themselves (i.e., halo effects); and

How whole grain statements influence consumer use of the Nutrition Facts.

The study randomly would assign each participant to view one label image from a set of food labels that would be varied in the labeling statement, featured product, access to the Nutrition Facts Panel, and nutritional profile, the F.D.A. said.

The F.D.A. originally published a 60-day notice requesting public comment on the proposed collection of information on May 26, 2011, and received numerous comments, most of which the F.D.A. said generally were supportive of its proposed study. The comments are available in the Feb. 27 issue of the Federal Register.

Another window to comment on the collection of information just released is open until March 28.

Information should be e-mailed to oira_submission@omb.eop.gov or faxed to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at (202) 395-7285.

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