'Food compass' to guide relabeling efforts
by Laurie Gorton
NEW ORLEANS — With packaged foods traveling into a new realm of nutrition labeling, three regulatory and food policy organizations joined forces to assist this journey. They announced their partnership at the 2014 annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists.
EAS Consulting Group, FoodMinds L.L.C. and Nutrition Impact L.L.C. created Food Label Compass, a suite of nutrition analysis, regulatory consulting and strategic services to guide food and beverage companies. The project aims to help companies understand the impact of, comply with, communicate about and capitalize on the changes in the Nutrition Facts Panel proposed by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year.
“From a practical standpoint, we have learned a lot in the past 20 years about the world of food labeling and how companies should meet regulatory requirements balanced with helping consumers make informed choices,” said Robert Post, Ph.D., chief science officer of FoodMinds L.L.C., Chicago.
Food Label Compass will conduct in-depth analyses of the food and nutrient content of clients’ brands relative to the new F.D.A. guidelines. The result will be a roadmap for food companies to navigate in adapting their product portfolio and brand messaging.
“While the nutrition label has been an invaluable tool to educate consumers, it is overdue for an update so that it can reflect current science and dietary recommendations,” said Victor Fulgoni, R.D., Ph.D., senior vice-president, Nutrition Impact, Battle Creek, Mich. “The trick for the food and beverage industry will be how to successfully navigate upcoming changes proactively and then communicate this new information to their consumers.”
Beyond how nutrition information will be presented, expected F.D.A. changes include guidance for claims made on package labels. This will present a challenge to the food industry, said Ed Steele, chairman and chief executive officer of EAS Consulting Group, Alexandria, Va.
“Understanding where there may be new claim opportunities and what scientific research will be needed to validate them is just one area,” he said. “Just as important is how to be confident that any proposed new labeling is correct.”
Consumer use of the Nutrition Facts label continues to increase, according to F.D.A. surveys conducted in 2002 and again in 2008. In that period, consumers reporting they often use the label rose from 44% in the first survey to 54% in the next one.