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‘Labeling is hot': Gluten-free, GMO and vending rules on horizon for snacks

By Kacey Culliney , 22-Apr-2013
Last updated the 22-Apr-2013 at 16:02 GMT

Labeling is a number one issue for US snack makers given the increasing attention from authorities and the private sector, says a US food policy expert.

Beth Johnson, founder of Food Directions LLC - a government relations firm specialized in food policy, told attendees of Snaxpo 2013 that snack makers need to take heed on labeling issues on the horizon.

“Labeling is hot - it really is one of the primary, main issues. Whether it’s from the FDA or from the private sector, what to put on the food label is getting a lot of attention right now,” Johnson said.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) voluntary gluten-free labeling is set to come out fairly soon, there is a proposed rule on menu labeling and GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling is getting a lot of attention at local and state level, she said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of labeling issues that are out there,” she added.

Voluntary FDA gluten-free label

The gluten-free voluntary label has gone through the FDA and is going through final clearances now with the administration, she said.

“We expect this out within the next couple of months. This will probably go into effect in maybe six months.”

The proposed scheme, once passed, will mean that any product with 20 parts of gluten per million or more cannot be labeled gluten-free.

“This is one of the issues, that if you do use the label, there will be some significant change,” Johnson said.

Menu labeling – vending machines to carry labels

The FDA is also working on a menu labeling scheme set for release within a month after its initial proposal two years ago.

“There is a lot of debate over everything and what it incorporates and covers,” she said, but explained that in short, the rule would mean that labels are required on vending machines.

“So even though you have the label on your snack product, you’re still going to have to out information on the vending machine so that when individuals make their snack choices through a vending machine, they can see the calorie levels right away,” she said.

GMO labeling

GMO labeling is a hot topic, Johnson said, particularly with the recent announcement from Whole Foods that in five years all products that use GMO ingredients must be labeled.

“There is this movement - there’s increased interest but there is also a really strong push on the other side saying ‘we don’t need to label GMOs, they’re safe’…It’s going to be interesting to see how this issue plays out over the next year or so,” she said.

Johnson said for those snack makers who do choose to label products with GMOs, there are several choices, including the non-GMO verified project.

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