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HHS, USDA PROPOSE SWEEPING CHANGES IN FOOD LABELS

          HHS, USDA PROPOSE SWEEPING CHANGES IN FOOD LABELS
    WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The Bush administration today


announced proposals for sweeping changes in food labels that will affect virtually all foods.
    In announcing this most extensive food labeling proposal ever, HHS Secretary Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., and USDA Deputy Secretary Ann M. Veneman said the changes would enable consumers to select a healthier diet by providing accurate and reliable information about the nutritional content of the food they eat.  The changes are expected to be fully implemented in 1993.
    The HHS proposals cover most of the broad changes required by the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.  While meat and poultry products were exempted by the NLEA, Secretary of Agriculture Edward Madigan directed USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to issue nutrition labeling proposals for meat and poultry in harmony with other foods.
    The most important proposed new rules in today's announcement include:
    -- Mandatory nutrition labeling for most processed foods, including consistent serving sizes in easily understandable measurements for most food categories.
    -- Definitions for nine core descriptive terms to ensure consistent use for the benefit of consumers.
    -- Conditions for statement of health claims on foods that contain nutrients that have a scientifically documented relationship with the risk of a disease.
    In addition, today's announcement covers the implementation of a voluntary nutrition labeling program for raw fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as raw, single ingredient meat and poultry products.
    "We must restore the credibility of the food label," said Sullivan.  "Our goal is to make the information on the label clear and useful, so that American consumers can make informed choices to improve their health and well being."
    "As a congressman, Secretary Madigan was a key architect of the NLEA," Veneman said.  "Together, USDA and HHS have now laid the groundwork for a set of uniform nutrition labeling policies that take the guesswork out of planning healthy diets."
    The Food and Drug Administration, a public health service agency within HHS, regulates all foods except for meat and poultry products, which are regulated by USDA.
    HHS' actions are part of a larger effort to carry out the NLEA signed by President Bush in 1990, as well as in furtherance of an initiative by FDA which, at Sullivan's request, had already undertaken a comprehensive review of food labels.
    USDA's proposal defines 23 meat and poultry product categories for nutrition labeling purposes.  Veneman said that this proposal is generally consistent with the FDA proposals for other foods.  An exception:  the terms "lean" and "extra lean" are proposed for meat and poultry products that meet strict limits on fat, saturated fat and cholesterol; these terms would not be used on any other food labels.
    Today's proposals would:
    -- Require listing of information about a food's nutrient content on most labels.  While many processed foods have included nutrition labeling for many years, it has never been required across the board. In addition, the list of required nutrients would be changed to emphasize nutrients that have a more significant impact on the health of today's consumers, such as cholesterol, fat and dietary fiber. The terms for some nutrients would also be simplified.  For example, "saturated fat" would be used rather than "saturated fatty acids."
    -- Provide for nutrition information to be presented as quantitative amounts -- for example, 4 grams of fat -- or as percentages of certain recommended daily values.  This would give consumers a better basis for comparing nutrient contents of various foods.
    -- Address fat, fatty acid and cholesterol content claims.  If a food is promoted as "cholesterol-free," "low cholesterol" or "x- percent fat-free," consumers may assume that it promotes good health or that it is different from competitive brands, when in fact this may not currently be the case.  The proposed regulations would prevent these terms from being used in a misleading manner.
    -- Permit health claims for nutrients when a valid relationship between the nutrient and the disease in question is scientifically demonstrated.  Relationships between calcium and osteoporosis, sodium and hypertension, fat and cardiovascular disease, and fat and cancer are the only ones of those considered which are currently supported by sufficient data and are proposed to be allowed on the label.  Two more claims -- for fiber and heart disease, and fiber and cancer -- will continue to be studied.  FDA is reserving judgment on these claims until it gets enough additional information on which to base a final decision.
    At a later date, USDA plans to propose labeling requirements for health claims consistent with FDA's.
    FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler, M.D., said, "In developing the proposals, we've reached out to consumer, health and industry groups. Our job is to make sure that the information presented on the food label is balanced, that it tells the whole story."
    In addition, FDA and USDA are analyzing the potential benefits and costs of the entire label reform initiative, including its impact on small businesses.  Although early estimates have placed the cost to food manufacturers at approximately $2 billion over 20 years, benefits of reduced medical costs and increased productivity from a healthier diet should be many times that much.
    Sullivan and Veneman encouraged business, industry and consumers to study the proposals.  Comments will be accepted for 90 days after they are published in the Federal Register.  Written comments on the HHS proposals should cite the docket number and be sent to:  Dockets Management Branch, HFA-305, FDA, Room 1-23, 12420 Parklawn Dr., Rockville, Md. 20857.  Private individuals may submit one copy of comments; all others should submit two copies.
    Comments on the USDA proposal should refer to Docket Number 91- 006P and be sent to:  Policy Office, Attn: Linda Carey, FSIS Hearing Clerk, Room 3171, South Building, Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.  Oral comments, as provided for by the Poultry Products Inspection Act, may be directed to:  Charles Edwards, FSIS, 202-205-0080.
    Under the NLEA, final regulations must be completed by Nov. 8, 1992.  Food manufacturers would then have until May 8, 1993, to begin providing products with the new label.
    -0-                      11/6/91
    /CONTACT:  Chris Lecos of the Food and Drug Administration, 202-245-1144, or after hours, 703-354-4418; or Roger Runningen of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 202-720-4623/ CO:  Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Department of Agriculture ST:  District of Columbia IN:  HEA FOD SU:  EXE DC-MH -- DC020 -- 1708 11/06/91 12:26 EST
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Date:Nov 6, 1991
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