Federal legislators from CT push to modernize food labeling

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, whose district includes part of Shelton, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal are pushing a proposed bill designed to cut down on what they say are confusing and misleading information that consumers encounter on today’s food packages.

The Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013 would address front-of-package labeling, misleading health claims, and requiring updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel and the ingredient list, according to its supporters.

“Clear, accurate and fair’

“The Food Labeling Modernization Act will give food labeling requirements in America a major, common-sense, and long-overdue overhaul by making sure food labels are a clear, accurate and fair representation of the product,” said DeLauro, a Democrat in her 12th term.

DeLauro said the legislation would provide more information to American families, and therefore “could have a significant impact on fighting obesity.”

Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut in his first term, agreed. “Grocery stores throughout the country are filled with products that bear labels with deceptive dietary information,” he said.

“The Food Labeling Modernization Act updates laws that haven’t been touched since 1930s, ensuring that consumers will know what they’re eating and parents will know what they’re feeding their kids,” Blumenthal said.

Help consumers evaluate and compare

DeLauro, Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, have been joined by consumer advocates in backing the bill.

They said nutrition information, ingredient lists, and health-related claims on food labels can play an important role in the battle against obesity and diet-related diseases, which are responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year, as well as increased healthcare costs.

Major 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, the bill’s supporters said.

“As a result, labels do not provide the information that today’s consumer needs to evaluate and compare products in order to make healthy choices,” according to a release from DeLauro’s office.

Would require standard nutrition labels

In an effort to help consumers select healthy products, the Food Labeling Modernization Act’s would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 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 also would strengthen current law to target trends in marketing that confuse or mislead consumers when they are attempting to compare food products, supporters said.

Specifically, the legislation would require new guidelines for the use of the words “healthy” or “made with whole grain.” The bill also would require the daily percentage values for calories and sugar, as well as the amount of sugar that is not naturally occurring, be listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

Are food claims real?

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Health, backs the measure. "This bill would give consumers confidence that the claims they read on food labels — like 'healthy,' 'natural,' 'made with whole grains,' and so on — are grounded in reality,” Jacobson said.

"Simply by making ingredient lists legible,” he said, “this bill would be a historic advance for consumers. Anyone who shops or eats should support the efforts of Sen. Blumenthal and Reps. Pallone and DeLauro to end the chaos on food labels."