Pallone, DeLauro, Blumenthal, Whitehouse, and Markey Introduce Food Labeling Modernization Act
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ed Markey (D-MA) have introduced the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2021 in their respective chambers that would update front-of-package food labeling requirements, require updates to the ingredient list on packaged foods, and apply consumer friendly labeling requirements.
“American consumers have a right to know what’s in the food they and their families eat, but that isn’t always easy with today’s opaque food labels and marketing claims,” Chairman Pallone said. “The Food Labeling Modernization Act will update our nation’s packaging requirements to provide clear nutritional information to consumers to help them make healthier and more informed purchasing decisions. I look forward to working with Chairwoman DeLauro and Senators Blumenthal, Whitehouse, and Markey to get this pro-consumer bill passed and signed into law.”
“This bill will bring much-needed clarity to food labels so Americans can make informed, healthy decisions for themselves and their families,” Senator Blumenthal said. “Current labels are a confusing maze and fail to provide important, useful information to consumers. The Food Labeling Modernization Act will ensure serving sizes are updated, allergens are clearly labeled, and nutritional information is transparent, giving people the tools they need to make healthier choices and avoid misleading, deceptive pitches and promotions.”
“The Food Labeling Modernization Act will give food labeling requirements an important and long-overdue overhaul,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Food labels should give a clear, accurate, and fair representation of the product, and that is just not the case right now. This common-sense bill would provide more information to consumers—information that is vital as people make choices about what food to buy for their families.”
“Americans ought to have clear information on what’s in their food,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This bill will grant people a much better understanding of their diet so they can make healthier decisions and avoid dangers like allergens.”
“We need a clear, truthful system of labels for food products that ensures consumers can make informed dietary choices without being confused or misled,” said Senator Markey. “The Food Labeling Modernization Act will improve labeling standards so all consumers have access to fair, honest, and easy to understand information about their food.”
In the United States, obesity and diet-related disease are responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year, as well as increased health care costs. However, food labeling requirements do not always provide families with the information they need to make healthy choices. The majority of the food labeling provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act have not been updated since 1990 and in some cases have not been changed since 1938. As a result, labels do not provide the information that today’s consumers need to evaluate and compare products in order to make healthy choices.
In an effort to help consumers select healthy products, the Food Labeling Modernization Act’s signature initiative will direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a single, standard front-of-package nutrition labeling system in a timely manner for all food products required to bear nutrition labeling.
The bill will also strengthen current law to target trends in marketing that confuse or mislead consumers when they are attempting to compare food products. Specifically, the legislation will require new guidelines for the use of the word “healthy.”
The Food Labeling Modernization Act is supported by Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group, Gluten Free Watchdog, National Celiac Association, Celiac Disease Foundation, Beyond Celiac, and Gluten Intolerance Group.
“The past year has laid bare how our nation’s ill health can make us more vulnerable to new threats, like the coronavirus,” said Peter Lurie, Executive Director and President, Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Many of the same conditions identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as risk factors for severe illness from COVID-19 can result, in part, from poor quality diets. It's time for the United States to take bold action to reduce the prevalence of diet-related diseases by passing the Food Labeling Modernization Act.”
“Food labels make numerous health claims that are more often hype instead of helpful,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports. “Consumers should be able to rely on these labels so they can easily compare products and make appropriate choices. This bill would help make food labels simpler, clearer, and more meaningful so we can all have more confidence that the food we are buying is truly healthy.”
“The FLMA is a game-changer for Americans with celiac disease and other gluten related disorders,” said Tricia Thompson of Gluten Free Watchdog. “Requiring labels to declare all gluten-containing grains in FDA-regulated foods will give consumers information they need to safely choose products for their medically-prescribed gluten-free diets. Without the FLMA, these consumers remain at risk of unknowingly ingesting foods that are unsafe for them.”
Over the last few years, the Food and Drug Administration has updated some requirements for the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods. The Food Labeling Modernization Act would build on that initial progress by ensuring consumers have access to easy-to-read information in order to make informed purchasing decisions.
Bill text is available HERE.