U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th District, on Tuesday unveiled a bill intended to prevent packaged-food companies from making misleading health claims.
The Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2018 would update front-of-package labeling requirements and require updates on the ingredient list of packaged foods by establishing a single, standard front of package nutrition labeling system to clarify consumer understanding of what they’re eating.
“Food labels play an important role in our nation’s battle against obesity and diet-related disease,” Pallone said remarks at Dean’s Natural Food Market in Ocean, N.J. “Unfortunately, federal labeling rules have not kept up with the changing marketplace, and food labels do not always provide the clear information that today’s consumers need to evaluate products and make healthy choices.”
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, diet-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health have risen as infectious disease rates have dropped.
The proposed legislation would require new guidelines for use of words and phrases such as “healthy,” “natural,” and “made with whole grains.”
“We want to define all that,” Pallone said. “We want guidelines for use of those words. This is envisioned as a ‘right to know’ way of empowering consumers to know what labels mean through transparency.”
For example, Fruit Loops are marketed as having “natural flavors.” Under the proposed legislation, the packaging would be required to state natural and artificial sweeteners, colors and flavorings on the front of package.
Food labeling provisions in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act have not been updated since 1990, and in some cases have not been changed since 1938, according to Pallone.
The bill has been referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which he is the ranking Democrat.