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SFA: Nutrition labeling will ‘expose’ snacks but we remain confident

By Kacey Culliney+

07-Mar-2014
Last updated on 07-Mar-2014 at 12:52 GMT

The SFA has concerns about the proposal to review serving size based upon what the 'normal' consumer eats, says its CEO
The SFA has concerns about the proposal to review serving size based upon what the 'normal' consumer eats, says its CEO

Nutrition labeling will expose snacks for what they are, but we’re committed to being transparent and confident US consumers will remain a snacking nation, says the CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA).

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) filed a proposal for a back-of-pack nutritional facts panel change . The proposal has suggested that calories be more prominent in a bolder font, serving size be reviewed and added sugars accounted for, among other things. If approved, this would mark the first significant change to the nutritional facts panel in around 20 years.

Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com at Snaxpo 2014 in Dallas, Texas, CEO of the SFA Tom Dempsey, called on snack makers to use this as a trigger to become involved in the voluntary front-of-pack labeling scheme Facts Up Front too.

“Now that we know that there is going to be a nutritional facts panel change, any new design or graphic change put on bags prior to the final label on the back of packs being determined, should conform to the Facts Up Fronts methodology of listing the ingredients on the front of pack,” he said.

Eventually, companies will have to change their whole packaging once the nutritional facts panel change is mandated, so he said manufacturers may as well invest in the front labeling scheme.

Nutritional exposure

Asked if there was a fear that such up front and detailed nutrition labeling would 'expose' snacks as a bad food, Dempsey said that, of course, the labeling would expose snacks for what they were, but there was nothing wrong with that.

“Clearly what we are is we’re a comfort food. People eat snacks, not because they are an essential part of their diet, it’s because they taste good, they are portable, easy to use, and most things in moderation are not going to be harmful to you," he said.

“We don’t propose somebody eating a 16-ounce bag of potato chips every day of their life, but we certainly think that as long as they [consumers] know what the snack contains, we’re very fine and very confident the American public will continue to be a snacking people.”

The proposed changes to the nutritional facts panel

Queries: Serving size review and added sugars

The proposal has entered its 90-day review period where members of the food and beverage industry, and other stakeholders, can submit queries and comments.

Dempsey said that the SFA had a few concerns, albeit minor. He said that the serving size review could be of concern. “What we’re hearing is that it will be determined on what the ‘normal’ consumer consumers as opposed to any established quantity.”

Asked what a normal consumer was, he said: “That’s a good question. I know some people who could eat a 6-ounce bag of potato chips and I know those people who are happy with one ounce. So I think that is one of the areas the food industry and the SFA will be very much anxious to express comments on.”

The change to labeling added sugars, Dempsey said, could also be complex, given that it was very difficult to determine the difference between naturally occurring sugars and sugars added. He also raised the concern that the underlying aim may be to encourage manufacturers to pull added sugars completely.

Fully committed to transparency

In an environment shaped by litigation and public relations, Dempsey said that the more transparent industry was, the better they could be at defending actions against them.

“We as an industry are absolutely committed to doing what needs to be done to give the consumers information. What we don’t want to do, is we don’t want to have PR or activist groups that have concerted efforts in one area to override scientific facts.”

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