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Nutritional analysis labs 'ready, willing, and label:' lab service capabilities geared up; advice is start planning NOW.

Lab service capabilities geared up; advice is start planning NOW

Sometime between November 8, 1992 and May 8, 1993 (or hopefully later, if extended), it has been estimated by the FDA that over 250,000 food product labels will have to be reviewed for possible revision, based on new nutritional analyses data to be determined. Add to this another several hundred thousand labels to be reviewed and/or revised for meat and poultry products under new USDA nutritional labeling regulations with a deadline extension already granted until May '94, and you have one sizeable analytical task.

It may take a while and be quite expensive (depending on the time allowed prior to compliance enforcement), but the testing laboratory services commercially available in the U.S. believe they are ready. They have spent considerable time, talent, and dollars to get ready. They have educated their own staffs, expanded their variety of services and capacity through investment in more equipment and people, and trained themselves in the needed test methods.

Start NOW

"Food processors should be forming a nutrition labeling team or task force within their company to get a head start on compliance with the law when it becomes effective in November of this year/' suggests John M. Hall, R-TECH(R). "The labeling task force could consist of representatives from marketing, research, quality control, regulatory compliance, legal, and other departments such as nutrition or statistics. By starting now, food processors can stretch the cost of analysis out over a year or more," Hall advised.

When other laboratory representatives were asked to suggest a 1-2-3 step program for immediate action prior to issuance of final regulations in November, and what services they offered to accomplish these steps, they offered mixed suggestions with a common theme: Do something! Start now ! Karen Daniels, ABC Research, suggests that processors "first, keep up with the issues...secondly, comment! (last chance)...and, thirdly, start gathering nutrient data now--either by analytical testing or through accurate database use."

"After meeting with our clients concerning the proposed nutrition labeling regulations," reports Sandra Bailey, Group Leader of Food Sciences at Lancaster Laboratories, "we have found that their first step should be a careful review of their products. They need to determine if their products fall under the mandatory labeling regulations.

"If they do, then they should look for sources of nutrient variability in their product from raw materials, processing effects, and lack of product homogeneity," Bailey continued. "They also need to examine their production schedules so that an effective sampling program can be developed. This will ensure that their nutrition label will accurately reflect the nutrient content of their product."

Hall added, "The products to concentrate on in initial efforts should be those that have the highest sales volume, have the greatest consumer recognition, have the most variation in their nutrient content, or are going to be featuring health claims or nutrient content descriptors. The analytical database used to support the label of these products should be the most comprehensive."

A suggestion to food marketers was offered by Bob Solomon, V.P. of Marketing/Business at Silliker Laboratories Group: "Food processors, especially those offering 'healthy' products, should examine the nutrient content of their products to determine if reformulation will be required...Market research with consumers may be useful to determine which claims are compelling."

"Food processors should also develop a timetable and budget for packaging re-design and printing," Solomon encouraged. "Time and time again, food marketers have found that being first with a new claim can mean an important advantage. Such opportunities may exist after November. Food processors should be ready to seize these opportunities."

Another first step suggestion from Mary Wagner, Medallion Laboratories, was, "Determine which nutrient descriptors work for your product, and then reformulate, if necessary, to meet your descriptor claims. But, most importantly, fully analyze products for mandatory nutrients that will be part of nutrition labeling requirements or voluntary nutrients that a company wishes to include as part of nutrition labeling."

"Even if FDA extends the final compliance date an additional year," Wagner stated, "there will be barely enough time to re-label all food products in the United States. Get done what you can now and stay ahead of the game["

You may be asking the question, "How can we begin before the law is finalized?" In the opinion of Hall, "Very few nutrients on the label that require analysis will be changing. Data on moisture, fat, ash, protein, dietary fiber, mono and di-saccharides, cholesterol, saturated fatty acids, calcium, iron, sodium, vitamin A, and vitamin C will be needed. These tests represent the bulk of the testing cost and can be done immediately with current methodology.

"The only questions at this time surround the assays for tri- and tetra-saccharides, sugar alcohols, complex carbohydrates, protein quality, and definition of fat. If these tests become necessary in the final regulations, you can resubmit a second sample composite of your product for the required tests. This second sample would also allow you to get another set of results on those nutrients that are important in your product marketing or that may vary from lot to lot." Hall warned, "Remember, it is up to your company to ensure that the label is supported by appropriate analytical data."

Lab services

Many laboratories offering analytical services related to nutrient labeling have spent the past few years since enactment of the 1990 NLEA preparing themselves to handle the expected workload from food processors.

For example, Silliker Labs reports that they have more than doubled their capacity for nutrition labeling analyses by equipping and staffing four of their labs with complete nutrition labeling capabilities. They have also produced new informational materials to keep their customers updated on changes in the regulations.

New software conforming to the new labeling requirements and rounding rules was developed at Silliker to provide results in label-friendly formats and to help clients develop their own databases. New analytical equipment, training of personnel, and participation in the AOAC Task Force on Nutrient Labeling Methods (see box) were part of Silliker Lab's battle plans.

A 50% increase in trained laboratory staff to assist customer needs and turnaround time has been successfully incorporated into Medallion Labs' program. They also report an additional equipment investment of half a million dollars in order to completely fulfill customer requirements regarding the NLEA.

Medallion Labs is offering clients a unique bonus to encourage food processors to commit to their NLEA analytical needs early. Any client submitting products for nutrition labeling between August 1 and November 8, 1992 will be guaranteed free additional analysis and recalculation that may be required by the final regulations. A public 2-day educational conference on NLEA sponsored by Medallion Labs has also been scheduled.

Hazleton Wisconsin reports that they currently hold approximately 50% of the market share for contract nutrition analysis, with over 400,000 sq ft of laboratory space and 750 employees (including a second and third shift for the nutritional chemistry areas). To meet the increased demand for service, their nutrition lab will be testing 24 hr/day five days a week and an 8-hr shift on weekends.

According to Randy Smith, Director of Nutritional Chemistry at Hazleton, "In the 1990s, the turnaround times will be measured in terms of hours, not days." In 1991, this division of Hazleton acquired more than $500,000 of computer and analytical instrumentation, expanding computer capacity and including supercritical gas chromatographs, and amino acid analyzers.

After streamlining internal operations and attending numerous meetings where nutrition labeling issues were discussed, Lancaster Laboratories has been preparing their clients through educational literature and seminars covering the nutrition labeling regulations and associated issues. Besides offering general seminars to various food associations, they have customized seminars for a client's specific products.

Most commercial labs offering analytical services will be providing a "full service," including consultations on nutrition labeling needs, analytical testing according to approved methodology, preparation and maintenance of client databases for convenient comparison and compilation over a period of time, customized data reports in the format required by the regulations, and generation of nutrition labels in the approved format.

AOAC Task Force on Methods

The expertise behind the development of the analytical methodolgy for the most accurate and standardized measurement of nutrition data required by the NLEA, also has been extremely active and will be ready. A new Task Force on Methods for Nutrient Labeling Analyses was established in December, 1991, by AOAC International-an independent association of scientists and organizations in both the private and public sectors devoted to promoting methods validation and quality measurements in the analytical sciences.

The charge to this Task Force is to identify existing suitable methodology, note methodology deficiences, improve existing validated methods, and incorporate standard reference materials in nutrient methods use. (Actually, this effort was initiated because of European activity in setting standards and methods for the European Community common market, as well as the NLEA in the U.S.)

The Task Force first surveyed the industry to determine a baseline of method availability and usage, then began efforts to publicize official AOAC methods appropriate for nutrient analysis. In July, 1992, the AOAC Task Force reported a list of hundreds of test methods and standard reference materials considered suitable for analysis of nutrient labeling needs in the proposed NLEA regulations.

Further information on AOAC International methods for nutrient analysis is available from AOAC International, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22201-3301. 703/5223032 CIRCLE 116

New method replaces protein efficiency ratio

Included in the proposed rules for nutrition labeling is a method of evaluating dietary protein quality that replaces, except in infant foods, the protein efficiency ratio (PER). The PER method has been criticized for over-estimating the value of some animal proteins and under-estimating others of vegetable origin. Based on rat feeding studies, PER values are not reflective of human protein requirements because growing rats have a higher need for certain essential amino acids as compared to growing humans.

The new method, called the "protein digestibility corrected amino acid score" (PDCAAS), is based on human dietary amino acid requirements. PDCAAS is an internationally recognized procedure for evaluating protein quality, having been recommended by a panel of experts convened under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

As implied by the method's name, a numerical indication of a protein's quality is derived based on an amino acid profile. This score is then adjusted for the digestibility of the protein. In other words, the score reflects whether a protein contains all of the essential amino acids in the correct amounts for humans, and also whether those amino acids are available for metabolism. Under the PDCAAS system, certain well processed soy protein products will be recognized as essentially equivalent to proteins of animal origin.

Proposed labeling rules allow for nutrient content claims to be made on product labels. Claims about protein content will be based on quality, as well as protein level. For example, standard pasta would be classified as "not a significant source of protein," based upon the quality of proteins. However, it is possible to fortify pasta flour with high quality soy protein, to yield a meatless pasta product that can meet requirements for a high protein claim.

Further information about PDCAAS and SUPRO(R) brand isolated soy protein can be acquired from Protein Technologies International, Checkerboard Square, St. Louis, MO 63164. 314/982-1186
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Title Annotation:Nutrition Labeling and Education Act Survival Guide: Foods of Tomorrow; includes related articles
Author:Duxbury, Dean D.; Eilers, James
Publication:Food Processing
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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