Food Navigator-USA tracks all the food news, food stories and pending food health legal issues in the U.S. There are quite a number of pending and new issues carrying over to 2014. Among them are the new nutrition facts label guidelines that were actually scheduled to be released in late 2011, but which experienced numerous delays. The FDA expects the revised guidelines to be released sometime in 2014.
Consumers have also been demanding that serving size information be modified so that a container that is clearly going to be consumed as a single serving not display portion sizes and calorie counts that reflect two or three servings. If most consumers will “eat the whole thing,” then it makes more sense to display nutrition information accordingly, say shoppers.
A looming issue driving much discussion is uniformity in labeling. The Food Labeling Modernization Act, currently under review, demands that there be some standardization and clarity with claims like “natural” and “whole grain,” and it also specifies that clear labels should be present on the front of the package. Further items in the bill address transparency of ingredients that have “chemical changes” like corn syrup and chemically modified starch. It is still not clear if the bill will pass in its current format.
As reported in prior shareposts, the FDA is currently evaluating trans fat to consider whether it does not meet the standard of GRAS or “Generally Recognized as Safe.” Stakeholders including food manufacturers have until January 7, 2014 to comment, and there has been a formal request to extend that date to March 7th, though no determination on the delay petition has occurred. The expectation is that trans fat or PHO’s (partially hydrogenated fats) will be removed from the food supply during 2014, but that it may happen in phases.
Following on the heels of the trans fat debate is the next ingredient that advocacy groups feel needs to be evaluated for GRAS, the sweetener, HFCS. High fructose corn syrup and its health implications will be a hot topic in 2014. Will it be the next ingredient considered unsafe?
Expect to see some discussion about AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon. This company would be the first to introduce a genetically-modified animal into the human food supply. The company has provided sufficient information to Environment Canada, a govenrment food safety division in Canada, for it to conclude that AquaAdvantage GE salmon are “not harmful to human health or the environment when produced in contained facilities.” Is it heading to our supermarkets next?
Recently, Andrew Weil, M.D., a formidable and well-respected health expert, and other noted health influencers have begun to suggest that refined carbohydrates may be significantly contributing to inflammation in the body, and specifically to the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats certainly deserve “respectful portion control and limited frequency” in the average person’s diet, but the over-consumption of too many processed grains is considered “alarming,” and new recommendations suggest dramatically reducing the presence of these foods in one's daily diet. So identifying whole grain-rich foods is crucial, since consumers need to easily recognize healthier carbohydrate food sources. The FDA does plan to conduct new research that would result in better guidelines for clear labeling of foods that are indeed, mostly rich in whole grains.
Still on the docket for consideration in 2014 is the GMO or “genetically modified organism” label. With so many foods containing GMO ingredients, the debate is raging at the national and individual state level. Is there enough research to identify GMO foods as safe? Even experts, who believe GMO foods are safe for regular consumption, feel that consumers should have the ability to identify this food feature. Many experts and consumers, who feel that GMO products are unsafe, want labels that showcase GMO ingredients clearly. GMO labels will be a hot topic in 2014.
The new Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that chain restaurants and retail food establishments with more than 20 locations list calorie content information for all “standard menu items.” A new bill recently introduced, calls on the FDA to amend the mandate to exclude grocery stores and other similar establishments. Still consumer groups like CSPI argue that consumers need to be able to make informed decisions wherever they make food purchases. The discussion will carry over to 2014.
Do you know what evaporated cane juice really is? Does it sound healthier than sugar? Should it be allowed in foods like yogurt that use terms on their labels like “better for you,” or “natural?” This issue will continue to be debated in 2014 as well. In general, there will be more discussion about how different sweeteners, like Truvia, for example, figure into the complex natural labeling system.
Energy drinks and the amount of caffeine they can safely contain, who they can be marketed to, and, specifically, what if any warnings the can should contain, will also be a featured issue in 2014.
With a burgeoning group of individuals in the U.S. developing diabetes, another debate expected in 2014 is whether “medical foods” that specifically market to the diabetes population should be allowed. There may be a move to using terms like low glycemic index, sustained energy or supports healthy glucose levels, rather than “diabetes friendly” or “for diabetes.”
And despite the lack of FDA involvement in salt standards, there may be a voluntary move by many food manufacturers to cut sodium levels in foods, because of the stance of several national health associations, including the American Heart Association.
Clearly there are many food-related health issues that will be filling the headlines in 2014. Stay tuned for updates as they occur!
Source: Food Navigator-USA
Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch? Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103. Catch her guest appearances on local and national news and talk shows, and check out her website. Follow my blogs.
Published On: December 10, 2013