Printer Friendly

Nutrition labeling can be a plus.

By Lee J. Weddig Executive Vice President National Fisheries Institute

During the first week of January 1993, the Food and Drug Administration published the long awaited final rule governing the placement of nutritional labeling information on food packages of all kinds. Very simply, processed products packaged for sale at retail, and this includes virtually all frozen foods, must provide nutritional information on their labels to assist the consumer in making wise choices for a healthy diet.

At first glance the new requirements appear to be ominously complex and one more expensive, complicated chore for processors of all kinds. However, there is another side to this story. Many of the nation's consumers are genuinely interested in improving their diets because of the incessant education showing a link between fat and cholesterol intakes and executed life spans, as well as a correlation with major diseases such as heart attacks and cancer. Those products that exhibit the desirable characteristics will have a marketing advantage over those that don't.

For the fish and seafood industry, this aspect of the new nutritional labeling scenario could be fairly advantageous.

Of particular interest to packers of frozen fillets, steaks and many shellfish items are the new definitions promoted by the Food and Drug Administration enabling products of this nature to be labeled as "lean" or "extra lean." The definitions for these two categories are new to the fish and seafood industry even though fin fish have been classified as either lean or fatty for many decades. Now the regulations provide definitions for these terms. Products with less than 10 grams total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams can be termed as "lean." Those with less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol meet the criteria for "extra lean."

By themselves, these new classifications may not seem to be very important or useful. However, in additional rulings the FDA has determined that low-fat products can make specific health claims relating to the consumption of fat in a diet as a deterrent to both cancer and heart disease. The fish and other meat products which meet the extra lean definition are specifically included in the criteria for allowing such health claims. This opens significant possibilities for the seafood industry because many of the fillet products and shellfish categories do meet the "extra lean" criteria. This enables these packages of frozen foods to include in their labeling the health claims regarding the correlation of low-fat diets to incidence of heart disease and cancer.

Some may believe that the relationship of a healthful diet is not that important to consumers. This certainly is true for some consumers, but many others have a genuine concern over the relationship of diet and health. When the National Fisheries Institute was preparing for its 1992 Convention it commissioned a study of fish consumption habits in Peoria, Illinois, in essence using that city as a test market under the theme of seeing how "Seafood Plays in Peoria." The personal and phone interviews were revealing. They showed that the consumers of Peoria were extremely concerned over the relationship of diet to health. Time after time the fish eaters cited their concern for fat and cholesterol as prime motivation for returning to more seafood meals.

Peoria may be somewhat of a unique circumstance in that the city does boast several major teaching hospitals that have put great public education emphasis on relationship of fat and cholesterol in the diet to longer lives. Accordingly, the concept may be more ingrained in the minds of Peoria consumers than it is in other parts of the country. However, the mandatory labeling initiative will further this understanding in that the federal government and many other organizations such as the American heart Association are continuing to impress the consumer with information relating diet to health. The fact that fish and seafood generally meet the criteria for low-fat products is going to become more and more obvious and become more important as a marketing tool for the entire industry.

It goes without saying, however, that just having a healthful food is not enough to get the consumer to buy. There is the constant need to make certain that value is present in terms of fair packing and good quality. Even the most healthful food won't be ingested if it does not provide the taste satisfaction expected by today's consumers. However, assuming that this will be done, the advantage of nutritional labeling to emphasize the healthful nature of the fish and seafood products is something that should not be overlooked by frozen fish processor and marketers.

So as packers review the new legal requirements for mandatory labeling, look at the bright side. The rules are complicated and there is concern over compliance, printing costs, depletion of packaging inventory and so on. But there is another side to the picture, a very positive one that should be used to the advantage of the seafood marketer.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Weddig, Lee J.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Doing what comes naturally. Not!!!
Next Article:Saul and I - 30 years.

Related Articles
Good news from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)!
Smart snacks.
Getting the goods on grub.
Useful nutrition labels pose a challenge.
FDA Proposes Adding Trans Fat Category to Nutrition Labels.
NFPA comments on trans fat labeling.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters