USA – The Food and Drug Administration will extend the compliance date for the updated Nutrition Facts panel by 18 months, according to a final rule published in the Federal Register.

Manufacturers with at least US$10 million in annual sales will need to have the new label by 2020, and smaller manufacturers will need to have it by 2021.

The new rule also would make changes to what’s on the label.

These include removing the declaration of calories from fat, requiring grams per serving of added sugars and adding a daily value declaration for sugars.

It also would require updating the vitamins and minerals that could be included on the label, making calorie information more prominent, and making formatting and reference value changes.

According to the document, the FDA received about 50,000 comments on its proposed rule and deadlines.

“After careful consideration, we have determined that extending the compliance dates by approximately 1.5 years, until January 1, 2020, or January 1, 2021 (depending on annual sales), would help ensure that all manufacturers covered by the final rules have time to use guidance from FDA to address, for example, certain technical questions we received after publication of the final rules.

Additional time will also help to ensure that manufacturers have time to coordinate with various parties to complete and print updated Nutrition Facts labels for their products before they are expected to be in compliance with the final rules.”

According to Food Dive, this deadline extension that will be published in the Federal Register is exactly what the FDA proposed in October.

The consumer’s right to know and the desire for transparency, as well as the manufacturer’s ability to make correct and sensible changes, figured large in the rulemaking.

FDA noted that both the new and old versions of the Nutrition Facts label are required to display accurate information, and any label will help consumers make informed nutritional choices.

“Education is key to helping consumers understand what they’re eating,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

The Federal Register also indicated a new campaign that will partner agencies under the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as health professionals, manufacturers, retailers and non-profits interested in health education to inform the public.

“We are continuing a variety of activities, such as conducting and reporting on food labeling research,” the Federal Register said.

“We plan to continue to build partnerships to develop, disseminate, and evaluate labeling education efforts that target specific groups, including low literacy consumers and sub-populations at high risk of nutrition-related chronic disease, in addition to the general public.”

“Today’s announcement should be a call to action for companies to provide consumers the information they want now, rather than waiting for the legal deadline,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest President Peter Lurie.

Grocery Manufacturers of America President and CEO Pamela Bailey welcomed the action, which she said in a statement gives companies the time to execute updates in a way that will reduce consumer confusion and added cost.

“Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed choices and these updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel are an important part of that on-going commitment,” Bailey said.