STOCKTON, Calif. -- If you don't like some of the labeling rules in the Federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, just stick around: It's bound to change soon.
In fact, nutrition labeling, as defined by NLEA, is meant to be an ever-changing process, said Janet McDonald, public affairs specialist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, San Francisco District.
"With the NLEA, the industry can petition for changes," she said, speaking here at a meeting of the Deli Council of northern California. "It is meant to be a living law."
This fact makes keeping up with current NLEA regulations difficult for the industry, she acknowledged.
When such rule changes become effective, manufacturers and retailers that produce or sell the products bearing health claims and nutritional labeling will have one year to bring their labels into compliance, McDonald said.
She went on to recount the various exemptions to the NLEA labeling rules that can offer retailers some relief. Exemptions in the law for deli operators in particular include those for small businesses and those involving the means of delivering the product to the consumer.
One bit of good news for some operators is that retailers who sell food for immediate consumption and have facilities for consumption are exempt from the labeling rules, she reminded attendees. "This can mean that there is a single chair and table" in the store, she added.
Signature and in-store prepared foods are exempt as well, McDonald said. However, bulk products that are repacked and put into the case have to have nutritional labeling on each package, she told the deli operators in attendance.
Food that is ready to eat, prepared on site and not for immediate consumption is also exempt in the event that it is for sale in that site and only in that site, she said.
"Portion size is another aspect of the NLEA that affects in-store deli operators. When preparing the label verbiage you must use serving size information."