FDA is responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety of specific foods and beverages sold in the United States, including all dairy products. The agency also sets food identity standards, specifying the ingredients, composition, and processes that food companies can use to make their products. FDA oversees most food and beverage labeling regulations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has primary responsibility for the regulation of food labeling for meat and poultry products, as well as labels that explain aspects of agricultural production, such as bioengineered products or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
FDA’s actions on food standards and labeling have an enormous impact on every dairy product, whether it’s on the market, in the pipeline or in the mind of an innovator working with novel food ingredients. IDFA’s persistent advocacy on a variety of key FDA activities builds valuable relationships, improves opportunities for change and garners results that will save members time and money while maintaining maximum safety for dairy products and consumers.
Here’s a look at our issues, their status and IDFA’s recent efforts for dairy.
In October 2019, FDA granted IDFA’s request to allow six additional months for food companies to complete nutrition facts label changes. The new deadline for most companies is July 1, 2020. Working with other food associations, IDFA told FDA that member companies held large label inventories worth millions of dollars, and the packaging would be obsolete when the change took effect. IDFA acted, gaining more time and saving members money. Read more.
In April 2019, FDA announced plans to modernize food standards of identity, including several dairy standards, as part of its multi-year Nutrition Innovation Strategy plan. After decades of advocating for updates, IDFA welcomed the move and recommended ways to keep modernizing standards to meet shifting consumer demands. IDFA will monitor progress and continue to spur FDA action on this important goal for industry innovation and growth. Here are two priorities:
FDA is reviewing how consumers use plant-based foods and how they interpret the use of dairy terms, such as milk and cheese, on these product labels. In comments submitted in January 2019, IDFA strongly encouraged FDA to develop, implement and enforce policies that ensure labels are truthful and not misleading or confusing, while also recognizing the importance of consumer choice and innovation in the marketplace. IDFA asked for a transparent review process and a comment period on any proposed actions. Read more.
At the 2019 National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS), IDFA successfully advocated for better alignment of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) with FDA’s Preventive Controls for Human Foods rule. We also requested a revised pilot program to increase efficiency and reduce inspection redundancies for facilities that manufacture both Grade “A” and non-Grade “A” products, such as ice cream mix and cheese. IDFA and members are working with FDA officials to develop the pilot program. Read more.
IDFA asked FDA in June 2019 to allow enforcement discretion on qualified health claims that link eating yogurt to a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. IDFA outlined the science, noting that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines and recommendations from the American Diabetes Association mention this benefit. Read more.
FDA urged food companies in May 2019 to adopt the voluntary standard terms “Best if used by” for quality date labeling to help reduce food waste, but not all dairy companies can use it. Some states require milk companies to use “sell by” or similar terms. IDFA is advocating for uniform laws or federal preemption to align all labeling and improve consumer understanding. Read more.
IDFA continues to ask for cheese to be exempt from FDA’s voluntary sodium reduction targets because salt plays a vital role in the safety and quality of all cheese products. We’re meeting with agency and administration officials to present the safety and cost implications for consumers and cheese makers.
We’ve also asked FDA to allow manufacturers to list “potassium salt” as an ingredient when they use potassium chloride as a salt substitute. This change would allow cleaner labels while helping FDA meet its dual goal of educating Americans about salt substitutes and encouraging them to use less salt. Read more.
IDFA updated three comprehensive manuals that serve as industry textbooks for labeling:
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