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Codex Food Labeling Proposals Focus on Fats, Sodium and Sugars

May 20, 2010

IDFA Vice President Cary Frye represented the interests of the global dairy industry earlier this month at the Codex Committee on Food Labeling meeting in Quebec City, Canada. The committee considered a variety of proposals, many of which would increase or add new international labeling regulations to inform consumers about the levels of saturated fat, sugars and sodium content in foods.

"While we achieved a key win to not label additives that are used only as a processing aid, unfortunately there was little or no emphasis on labeling of nutrients that should be encouraged for good health or nutrition," said Frye, who serves as vice chair of the International Dairy Federation's Standing Committee on Food Labeling. She participated in the IDF delegation at the session, which drew 250 delegates representing 61 counties and 21 international organizations.

IDF successfully convinced the European Union to support its request not to add new class name labeling requirements for declaring "packaging gas," used with cheese and other foods, and "carrier" additives, such as flavors and colors, in the ingredient declaration. These compounds are considered processing aids, not food additives.

Committee Aims to Inform Consumers

A number of work items that could impact milk and dairy foods have been proposed under the World Health Organization's "Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health." The strategy aims to limit the intake of sodium, trans fatty acids and sugars that are not naturally occurring in foods and shift from saturated fats to unsaturated fats. As a result, the Codex Committee on Food Labeling changes focused on adding regulations to inform consumers about the fat, sugar and sodium content of foods, as well as possible new claims for foods that do not contain added sugar or sodium.

One proposal moved forward by the committee would revise international regulations for mandatory nutrition labeling of nutrients when the food label also makes a nutrient content or health claim. Although similar guidelines have been in effect in the United States since the Nutritional Labeling Educations Act (NLEA) of 1991, the proposed changes would require other countries to beef up their limited nutritional content on labels.

Currently the Codex regulations only require energy, protein, fat and carbohydrates to be declared. The committee is considering adding amounts of saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, total sugars and/or added sugars, sodium and dietary fiber on the label. Although IDF could not persuade the committee to exclude saturated fat from the list, or only require added sugar, the Committee agreed with adding a footnote that will require labeling for trans fatty acids only under specific circumstances. The Codex definition for trans fatty acids does not include the conjugated forms found naturally in milkfat, such as conjugated linoleic acid.

Codex decisions on standards can have a significant impact on IDFA members that export dairy products, since many Codex standards are often adopted by importing countries and are used to resolve World Trade Organization disputes.

IDFA's summary of the meeting is available here.

For more information, members may contact Frye at

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