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FDA: In Its Own Words

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There’s a new Food and Drug Administration in town, and its serious about label reform.

This has been apparent for some time now — ever since early this year, when the agency fired a warning shot at General Mills — and we’ve been on the case, covering the issue as its evolved. There’s only so much insight we can offer, however. For the best idea of where things are headed, check out yesterday’s column in The Atlantic’s food section by Michael Taylor, the FDA’s advisor in charge of food safety and nutrition labeling.

fdalogo3.jpgIn it, Taylor talks about the problems with labeling systems developed by retailers and manufacturers. Companies claim they’re providing helpful guidance and transparency — but to Taylor, it’s all an overload of dubious information.

“Consumer studies show that some people feel these messages are helpful point-of-purchase shortcuts,” he writes. “But many people are overwhelmed by these messages--and skeptical of their legitimacy.”

The FDA’s goal, he says, is to simplify nutrition labeling and make it more credible. Will this come in the form of a universal system? It sure looks that way. Taylor draws a parallel between this administration and the one from the ‘90s, which developed the Nutrition Facts label now present on all packaged products. He also mentions that the FDA is consulting with its British counterpart, which developed the popular traffic light system that’s standard over there.

Ultimately, as both retailers and regulators will agree, it’s up to shoppers. And that’s why Taylor offers an invitation to readers, companies — everyone — to join the agency in its mission.

“We have a public health imperative to act.”

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