The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed its proposal to overhaul Nutrition Facts labeling back in February, this year. Proposed changes include removing vitamin A and C as mandatory listed micronutrients and replacing them with vitamin D and potassium on the Nutrition Facts Panel. A review of serving size and a stronger focus on calories and added sugars was also proposed, among other things.
Eric Ciappio, scientific leader at DSM Nutritional Products North America, said these proposed changes to mandatory micronutrient labels was cause for concern.
“By not making it mandatory disclosing some micronutrients, it could advertently lead to an incentive to de-fortify,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“Do I think that the removal of vitamin A and C is 100% appropriate? Yes and no, in that I see the thought process and I guess creating the relative importance with potassium - which has emerged as a really important public health problem. But at the same time, you don’t want to create that disincentive to not fortify. So that becomes a little bit tricky,” he said.
Breakfast cereals and cereal bars remained prime vehicles for vitamin fortification, he said, particularly given consumer expectations on consuming fortified products in the morning.
Let’s hope it doesn’t harm ‘hidden hunger’
DSM had filed comments to the FDA relating to these concerns, he said.
While the main interest of the nutrition label overhaul was to tackle obesity-related concerns, he said the move could “inadvertently dismiss hidden hunger – the differences in micronutrient intakes”.
“Theoretically, if there’s a significant amount of de-fortification, then you can envision a scenario where the prevalence of inadequate intake and subsequently deficiency increases,” he said.
“The hope is that food manufacturers won’t be incentivized to remove them from their products, but only time will tell.”
Don’t forget vitamin E!
While vitamin D and potassium were, of course, important nutrients and ones listed as nutrients of concern by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, he said vitamin E also deserved focus.
“When you look at dietary surveys, routinely the two that always pop out as the most inadequate in terms of intake is vitamin D and vitamin E, without a doubt.”
Asked if vitamin E should have been included on the proposed mandatory nutrients, Ciappio said: “That’s something of a controversial area, I think, among the nutrition community. Do I personally this it should be? Yes. I think vitamin E is something that’s very important and it’s got recognized benefits for the body, for the heart, etc.
“But, at the same time I understand the FDA’s perspective which is there is a very significant public health need for vitamin D (…) But again, from an intake perspective, we all agree that vitamin E is an essential ingredient. It’s essential for the human condition and a major, major swath of the American population isn’t getting enough.”
Still time for comments…
The FDA extended its open comment period on the nutrition labeling overhaul to August 1, 2014, and Ciappio said DSM wanted to submit more, given the extra time.
In addition to comments flagging concerns about unintentionally creating disincentives on fortification, he said DSM also wanted to raise concerns about how changes to serving size would impact the listed percentage of daily intakes on nutrients.
“If you add twice as much volume to a product, or shrink it by as much, then the percentage of daily value is going to change. So, that’s something that needs to be taken into account.”
Changes would impact fortification because absolute and relative quantities would change, he explained.