The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) creates specific labeling requirements. A number of updates and changes occurred as of January of 2020, and new standards went into effect for 2022.
What Is The NLEA Law?
President George H.W. Bush signed the NLEA as a federal law in 1990. The law provided the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to require specific nutrition information be presented in a clear manner on food labels. The law also states that all nutrient content claims must be printed on food labels. It also required that all health claims and ingredients must meet the FDA’s regulations.
The FDA issues regulations that require changes to food labels. Since 1996, the agency has put in place specific uniform compliance dates for all of these changes. The goal is to minimize the economic impact on the food industry that would occur should each change require its own update. Rather, all compliance updates simply happen at a date at some time in the future.
FDA Compliance Requirements by January 2022
In 2018, the FDA stated that January 1, 2022, would be the date for uniform compliance for final food labeling regulations to be in place for all changes made in 2019 and 2020. The statement required all food products from those years must comply with proper labeling regulations when the product is introduced into interstate commerce on that date.
In short, January 1, 2022, was the uniform compliance date for all changes made in 2019 and 2020. If your products had any required changes, you had until this date to make those changes.
FDA Compliance Requirements for 2024
The FDA issued a statement in January of 2021 announcing that January 1, 2024, would be the uniform compliance date for any final food labeling regulations that the agency issues in 2021 or 2022. This does not change any rules for compliance dates published before that time.
Key Changes That May Impact Food Labels from 2021
Some of the key changes for labeling involve the following:
- Recommendations on infant formula
- Standard of Identity for Yogurt
- Sodium Reduction Final Guidance
- Temporary Marketing Permits
Key Changes That May Impact Food Labels from 2020
The following key changes were recommended for food labels during the 2020 year:
- Standard of Identity for French Dressing
- Standard of Identity for Frozen Cherry Pie
- Alternate Name for Potassium Chloride in Food Labeling
- Disclosure of Sesame when Added as Flavoring or Spice
- Certain Sugars and Allulose
- Food Made with Cultured Seafood Cells
- Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented and Hydrolyzed Foods
Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards Update to Food Labeling
One significant change coming into effect related to food disclosure relates to rules established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The organization’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a final rule in December of 2018 that put in place the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS).
This new rule went into place on January 1, 2022. The NBFDS requires that all importers, manufacturers, and retailers that sell or package food in bulk to provide additional disclosures that were not a requirement prior to this date. That is, they must disclose the presence of bioengineered food or food ingredients on product labels if those products were meant for sale.
The statement defined bioengineered food as “food that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature” (7 CFR Section 66.1). Bioengineered food does not include food that “does not contain modified genetic material if the genetic material is not detectable pursuant to [validated analytical testing]” (7 CFR Section 66.1).
The standard defines bioengineered foods as those containing detectable genetic material that’s been modified in some way, including through various lab methods, and cannot be created through traditional breeding or cannot be found in nature.
Updating Food Labels to Meet Compliance Requirements
Organizations that produce, package, or sell food products that align with the NLEA must maintain up-to-date packaging as laws change. A significant change in labels occurred in 2016, updating the look of labels to make them clearer and easier to read. Those went into effect in 2020.