Washington, D.C.—A new bill has been proposed that would amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to strengthen requirements for nutritional information on food labels. The bill, entitled the “Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2013,” was sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ).

Proposed in the bill are multiple changes to nutrition labels that aim to help consumers read labels more easily, such as separating ingredients by bullet points, not commas. The bill calls for amounts of added sugar and caffeine to be printed on the label. It also suggests that manufacturers should not describe a product as “natural” if it contains artificial ingredients or chemically altered ingredients such as corn syrup or chemically modified starch.

Also proposed by Pallone are regulations regarding the term “whole grains,” requiring any product with such a claim to list the percentage of whole grains by weight on the package. Furthermore, if whole grains do not comprise at least half of a product made with grains, it cannot be labeled as “healthy.” In a similar vein, if low cholesterol claims are made by the product, then trans-fats levels must be disclosed; if a product contains cholesterol, low trans-fats claimed may not be made.

Should the “Food Labeling Modernization Act” be passed, one of the most obvious and most ambitious changes that would affect the consumer shopping experience is in regards to a standard symbol system on each food package. The system would quickly alert the consumer of calories in terms of serving size as well as nutrients in the product that are associated with public health concerns. The symbol would be sufficiently large, have a prominent design that contrasts with the rest of the packaging and appear in a consistent location so it can be easily identified and understood.

No reference to GMOs is made in the bill.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2013 (online 9/29/13)