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Does FDA Regulate Front of Package Labeling?

November 30, 2010
Question 

As a health researcher interested in packaging labels to promote behavior change, would grocery stores be able to alter a package, for example, add a sticker to a front-of-pack that more prominently displays government regulated nutrition facts panel information in order to promote health if it did not alter (hide or cover) other government regulated package components (nutrition facts panel label, weight, sell by date, etc.)?

Answer 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a guidance for industry on point of purchase food labeling, including front of package (FOP) labeling, in October 2009. In the guidance, FDA stated that it "recognizes that point of purchase labeling can be a way of promoting informed food choices and helping consumers construct healthier diets in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans." However, the Agency also cautioned that with FOP labeling, people are less likely to check the Nutrition Facts label on the information panel of foods. FDA is currently developing a proposed regulation that will provide standardized, science-based criteria on which FOP nutritional labeling must be based. Currently, nutrition-related FOP labeling, while voluntary, is subject to the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which prohibit false or misleading claims and restrict nutrient content claims to those defined in FDA regulations. The guidance, "Letter Regarding Point of Purchase Food Labeling," can be found on FDA's website.