Food Industry Faces Regulatory Paradigm Shift

The year 2016 will be remembered as a watershed for food producers, importers and retailers in the United States. A wave of new federal and state rules published over the past months will impact food companies, huge and very small, for years to come. The changes are so large they amount to a regulatory paradigm shift.

Of course, the goal to increase the food safety, improve the health of millions,  and provide transparency to consumers of what’s sold at retail stores and restaurants.

Yet, the legislation may increase the cost of doing business in this industry. Small, artisan producers may not be able to compete with well-financed rivals.

This is why we summarized the most important national and state laws and  Food & Drug Administration’s final rules published over the past twelve month in as simple a language as we were able to write.

Click on each headline to delver further into the topics or get to relevant original sources.

Calories and Sugar – Nutrition Facts

New Packaged Food Nutrition Label

It’s all about sugar awareness. Until July 2018, manufacturers of most packaged foods and beverages will have to make the significant changes to nutrition and ingredient panel: highlight calories, relate calories to package and portion size, list added sugars and others.

Restaurant Menu Nutrition Labels in [Fast Food] Restaurants and Food Service Establishments

All chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets have to list calories on the menu. Although not mandatory before 2017, many chains have already implemented that rule. This means, food service suppliers to restaurants better put caloric information on their packages.

Guidance on Evaporated Cane Juice

Some manufacturers thought they could avoid listing “sugar” in the ingredient list of their products and call it instead “evaporated cane juice.” No longer.

Local Taxes on Sweets and Soda

Some major states and metropolitan areas charge a local tax on sweets and soda, as do some European countries. The jury is still out whether this effort will reduce consumption of these foods and, by extension, the obesity epidemic.

Food Safety Modernization Act Final Rules

This is the largest food law overhauls since the inception of the Food and Drug Administration in 1916. The law that became final rule in 2015 and 2016 puts the responsibility of ensuring food safety squarely on the shoulders of food manufacturers. This may significantly increase costs and liabilities for those manufacturers who don’t pay attention to hazard prevention and control, labeling, sanitation and the safe transportation of food.

Food facility registration
All facilities that “manufacture, process, pack or hold food for human or animal consumption” in the US and those that export to the US have to register with the FDA database. What’s new:  register with a valid e-mail and the type of activity conducted at the facility for each food product category.

Preventive Controls for Human and Animal Food

Produce Safety Rule

Both of these rules prescribe the type of “preventive control” approach that all domestic and foreign food manufacturers have to follow, if they want to sell in the US.

Foreign Suppler Verification Program

Now, all importers in the US are held responsible for the safety of the  foods they bring into the country.  15% of the food supply in the US is imported, from seafood, fruits and vegetables to all the foreign specialties you can buy in the supermarket.  The FDA records about 12 million line entries per year for the import of food and registered over 114,000 food facilities in 200 countries around the world.

Sanitary Transportation

Accredited Third Party Certification

Food Defense (Strategies against Intentional Adulteration)

National GMO Labeling Law

Now it’s official. In July 2016, President Obama signed the first national GMO Labeling Law, called the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. Pursued for years by advocates of natural and organic foods and fought bitterly by the conventional, mass market food industry, US Congress passed  a new law, mandating the labeling of genetically modified organisms in foods and beverages. The US Department of Agriculture has now 2 years to issue final regulations..

Vermont GMO Labeling Law

A whopper of a legislation that forced all food and beverage manufacturers selling their products in Vermont to indicate on packages if their products contain more than 0.9% genetically modified organisms  Many retailers and distributors already required manufacturers to sign a  Letter of Guarantee, Affidavit.

This law is now superseded by the National GMO Labeling Law.

Poison in Packaging? California’s Prop 65

When it comes to environmental protection, Californians (like Germans) are somewhere “out there.” The California Proposition 65 (also called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, passed in the 1980s) requires the labels on any household materials, food and non-food, that contains toxic levels beyond those determined by the California regulators. Got some pesticide residues in the grains or herbs ingredients of your snack bar? Using a cancer-causing chemical in your cleaner? You better indicate that on the product. Otherwise, any Californian with a test lab can check your product and notify the authorities. If the toxins exceed the official level … you pay the fine. Click the link above to a summary page.

Guidance on Medical Foods

What’s that?  These are food products “with distinct nutritional benefits usually delivered in liquid form by catheter to hospital patients, who require dietary management, have special therapeutic or chronic medical needs,  limited or impaired capacity to ingest, digest, absorb, or metabolize ordinary foodstuffs or have other medically determined nutrient requirements.” Phew. If you’re producing these kinds of foods, there are new FDA guidelines you need to consider.