CHICAGO -- After more than four years in the making, the new federally mandated nutrition label on processed food products officially went into effect yesterday and is being launched with a $1.5 million ad campaign.
"It [the label] will enable Americans to make truly informed choices," Kessler said at the FMI event. "Our job now is to make sure consumers know the label is there, to look for it and to use it." As mandated by the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act of 1990, nonmeat processed foods are now required to include a series of "Nutrition Facts" on their labels, including the amounts of various nutrients in each product based on a newly standardized single-serving portion. To bring consumers up to speed on how to use the label, the FDA is launching a jazzy television public service announcement campaign under the slogan "The New Food Label -- Check It Out."
One 30-second spot features endorsements by baseball superstars Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins and Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox.
The label will also be promoted on New York's Times Square's electronic "zipper" billboard, baseball park scoreboards and grocery bags. McDonald's restaurants will tout the labels on tray liners. Goodyear blimps will help publicize the program and the American Heart Association will sponsor in-store seminars. In his Chicago presentation, Kessler said labeling requirements may be altered and updated over time. FDA also announced how it defines the term "healthy," one of several adjectives it will regulate in monitoring food claims.
It said a food must follow previously announced FDA parameters for being low in fat and saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium in order to be labeled "healthy." Single servings of food labeled "healthy" may not contain more than 3 grams of fat or more than 1 gram of saturated fat. Strict sodium limits, they will be phased in through 1998, starting with 480 milligrams per serving and ending with 360 milligrams.
"As of July 6, the Agriculture Department will require that all processed food containing meat carry the nutrition labels.