Baking Tech Conference 2018

Bimbo warns of challenges as FDA yet to finalize nutrition label deadline

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Phil Boehm received recognition for sharing his industry knowledge at the Baking Tech Conference in Chicago. Pic: BAS
Phil Boehm received recognition for sharing his industry knowledge at the Baking Tech Conference in Chicago. Pic: BAS
At the Baking Tech Conference held in Chicago at the end of February, Phil Boehm, director of regulatory affairs at Bimbo Bakeries USA, said the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) compliance dates were only a proposal, and if not finalized soon, US bakeries could be forced to follow the original compliance deadlines.

He was referring to the FDA deadline of July 26, 2018 for manufacturers with $10m or more in revenues, and a year later for companies with annual sales of less than $10m.

Last year, the FDA had proposed to extend the NFL compliance date to January 1, 2020 for the bigger manufacturers, and an extra year for smaller companies.

However, without a confirmation, this could mean large bakeries like Bimbo have less than 20 weeks to update all its packaging labels.

FDA’s indecisiveness

The company said its R&D team has been focusing on the clean label trend, as the FDA has yet to clarify the definitions of some ingredients in the new nutrition facts label (NFL).

“The biggest challenge for our industry is the indecisiveness of the FDA,”​ said Boehm, noting that was why companies like Bimbo and lobby groups like Gonnella Baking and the American Bakers Association (ABA) were in negotiations with the FDA.

“I don’t think most people understand [the urgency of the compliance date]. We're trying to keep it as simple as possible. Sugar is sugar, deal with it. If it’s 'added sugar,' then it’s 'added sugar,'”​ he said.

However, things are not that simple, as the new NFL does not correspond with clean label.

Jacinthe Cote, product management director for baking yeast supplier Lallemand, said one of the dietary fibers the FDA has allowed for is hydroxypropylmethylcellulose.

"That’s not something consumers want to see,"​ said Cote, noting only pronouceable ingredients should be tolerated.

Boehm told BakeryandSnacks 'added sugar' is proving to be a bigger challenge as sugar could naturally occur or be lost during the browning and fermentation processes, making it difficult to calculate the additional sugar in finished products.

Bimbo’s progress on new NFL

Boehm said he has not, as yet, seen any bakery manufacturers moving to reformulate their products - be it changing fiber types or reducing added sugar.

“We’re waiting till the last possible minute to do something with the dietary fiber,”​ he said.

In the meantime, however, Bimbo has been removing high-fructose corn syrup from baked goods as it is an artificial ingredient.

"We’ve been trying to keep our labeling and packaging inventories as low as possible [as] we’re going under the premise that 2020 will be the reality," ​said Boehm.

“The FDA also said it would implement ‘enforcement discretion’, [which we've taken] into consideration as well,”​ he added, noting the company has converted two-thirds of its packaging to the new label since 2016.

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